By Jack Ryan
A multi-agency operation that stretched from Queens to California resulted in the arrest on Thursday of Anthony “Ant” Pineda on charges that he ran a massive methamphetamine distribution organization.
Fourteen of Pineda’s co-defendants were previously arrested and arraigned on indictments unsealed last month in Brooklyn federal court. Pineda was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak and ordered held without bail pending trial.
In announcing the arrest of Pineda, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue said the take-down of the gang was part of a joint operation involving William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill, and Thomas Decker, Field Office Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations.
“Drug dealers are trying to turn New York into the next methamphetamine wasteland,” Donoghue said. “The Eastern District will work tirelessly with our partners on long-term investigations such as this to prosecute those who poison our communities with this highly addictive and dangerous drug.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney said Pineda used his illegal gambling business as a foundation, to run his meth business.
“Distributing on both a large scale and street level, Pineda and his co-defendants carelessly endangered our communities,” Sweeney said. “These individuals operated on opposite sides of the nation – but with the help of our fellow law enforcement agencies, today’s arrests show that expansiveness never inhibits justice.”
According to the indictments, court documents and statements made in court, Anthony Pineda led a methamphetamine distribution organization from his illegal gambling parlors located in Flushing. Pineda obtained large quantities of methamphetamine in California and transported the drugs to New York for wholesale and retail distribution. His co-defendants include large-scale and street-level methamphetamine distributors, as well as his partners in the illegal gambling operation.
“The behavior outlined in these indictments, and the violence so often associated with such acts, will never be tolerated by the NYPD or any of our law enforcement partners,” said NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “As we demonstrate time and again, we are patient and our collaborative forces have a long reach. We will be relentless in removing these criminals from our streets, because New Yorkers expect and deserve nothing less than our very best efforts to not only keep them safe, but to ensure they feel safe too.”
Pineda allegedly protected his illegal operations with threats and violence. For example, in 2017, he allegedly threatened a competing gambling parlor owner with a gun and referred to a “high voltage cattle prod” that a co-conspirator could use to collect a debt. When Pineda was arrested at an apartment where he was staying, law enforcement officers recovered one pound of methamphetamine and approximately $27,000 in cash.
Pineda, Yunfeng Gao, Ting “Ting Ting” Li, Ivan Kaleda, Marco Rescino, Guanghua “Mao Mao” Shen, Jin Wang, Joung Hwa Yun, Lu “Chinese Ivan” Zhai and Nan Zhang are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and methamphetamine distribution.
Min Li and Steven Torres are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Davoud Haghighy is charged with methamphetamine distribution and firearms trafficking. Si En Li is charged with operating an illegal gambling parlor. Yuan Li is charged with extortion. In addition, Pineda and Rescino are charged with money laundering conspiracy.
With the exception of Rescino, who is from California, all the defendants are residents of Queens and Brooklyn.
If convicted, the maximum sentences range from five years to life imprisonment.