NEW YORK — The cheery red, white and blue sign advertised candy and ice cream, but police say the Brooklyn store was selling something far more sinister.
Behind a secret door at the Gates Candy & Grocery Store, officers found what appeared to be bags of heroin and barrels of fentanyl, the powerful painkiller officials say is behind a nationwide epidemic of opiate overdoses. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin to boost its effect.
Police arrested 46-year-old Mohamad Ali, of Hell's Kitchen, and 33-year-old Hamdan Alsaidi, of Queens. Both will face charges of drug trafficking, possession and paraphernalia.
Authorities became suspicious of the candy shop on Gates Ave in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood and performed an inspection Wednesday for un-taxed cigarettes. After getting a warrant, they returned the next morning and found much more, according to NYPD Commissioner Bratton. Heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain pills have plagued the tri-state area and are responsible for a rash of overdose deaths.
"We have high concerns about that issue for the public — those who are foolish enough to inject, ingest those products," Bratton said, according to the New York Daily News. "They don't know who's making them, what's in them, and increasingly fentanyl is a major component of what's in them, which increases the high but also the likelihood of overdose."
The problem has became so widespread that the NYPD has reportedly stopped testing heroin in the field out of concern that it might be mixed with fentanyl.