Anti-violence director among 15 arrested in Orange County narcotic trafficking ring
The director of an anti-gun, anti-gang violence group in the Bronx is now accused of being a major cocaine trafficker in Orange County.
Officials arrested Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence (BRAG) director Michael Rodriguez July 26. He's accused of leading a narcotic trafficking ring that sold cocaine laced with fentanyl in multiple Orange County communities.
News 12 The Bronx interviewed the 48-year-old four days before his arrest, on July 22, at a community event meant for high-risk youth. His Yonkers residence was later raided that week in the multiagency investigation dubbed, "Operation Hide in Plain Sight."
“The very guy that we have supposed to be stopping gun violence in one jurisdiction in New York City is poisoning our jurisdiction up here," said Orange County District Attorney Dave Hoovler.
Authorities allegedly found Rodriguez in possession of two illegal firearms, 1.5 kilos of cocaine and $167,000 in cash. Officials say the two-year investigation first centered around Angelica Rodriguez - an alleged drug dealer in Middletown for more than two decades. Police say months of wiretaps then led them to the alleged supplier.
“The very guy that we have supposed to be stopping gun violence in one jurisdiction in New York City is poisoning our jurisdiction up here," said Hoovler.
A BRAG spokesperson released this statement to News 12: “We are aware of the investigation and the charges that have been made. While we work to learn more, our primary focus remains on the communities we serve and our programs that are helping to keep them safe.”
The alleged operation spanned Middletown, Port Jervis and nearby communities. Both Michael Rodriguez and Angelica Rodriguez, who authorities say are not related, are accused of being major players. Police say the others arrested were lower-level dealers.
Officials say the narcotics sold were often laced with fentanyl. They hope the multiagency, two-year operation helps slow down the local rise in overdoses.
“We are not going to stop the fight. We will continue to use resources, partnering together, using whatever technology we have access to do everything in our power to make our communities safe," said Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw.
Michael Rodriguez and Angelica Rodriguez are being held in Orange County Jail without bail. The others arrested were released on appearance tickets.