SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican anti-drug authorities announced Sunday that they had broken up a network that sold counterfeit cigars labeled with well-known brand names but stuffed with marijuana, cocaine and other controlled substances in the northern city of Santiago.
The spokesman for the National Drug Control Directorate, or DNCD, in the northern part of the country, Abel Rojas, said that the band was headed by Gabriel Antonio Nuñez, a “known drug trafficker” from Santiago, who was arrested along with six other people.
Rojas said that Dominican authorities became suspicious at how it had become a “fad” for local young people and others to be buying cigars, and they opened an investigation.
He said that the investigation revealed that the members of the network were selling the new buyers knock-off cigars that had been filled with drugs.
The official went on to say that, in addition to Nuñez, authorities arrested Joel Espinal Vargas, who was the second-in-command of the drug distribution network and their accomplices Victoriano Ramon Morales Santos, Elias Ferreras, Luis Manuel Lantigua, Jairo Jesus Polanco and Elvis Manuel Rodriguez.
Rojas said that the arrested men operated two laboratories where they processed drugs in two houses in the Guayacanal and Hato del Yaque neighborhoods of Santiago. At those locations, authorities seized half a kilogram of cocaine, half a pound of marijuana, a shotgun, a vehicle and equipment used to pack the drugs into the cigars.
He also said that authorities had confiscated 49 cigars filled with cocaine and marijuana, as well as cigar-making equipment.