Albany, New York-A reputed heroin trafficker tied to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman offered to pay fellow inmates at the Albany County jail to assassinate two former associates who testified against him, Sheriff Craig Apple said Thursday. Manuel Luna, 50, of the Bronx, who is on trial in Albany facing state charges that could send him to prison for 25 years to life, uttered the threats while in a booking cell about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the sheriff said.
Luna, a native of the Dominican Republic, faces allegations he sold upward of $6 million in heroin and cocaine to a drug customer — Geraldo "Bejo" Torres — between 2013 and 2015, when Luna was indicted along with Torres and six others in a case brought by District Attorney David Soares' office.Torres testified in County Court against Luna, as did Jose Beltran, known as "Moreno," who also had been charged with being a major drug trafficker.
"Basically, what he was trying to do was incite other inmates to participate in harming inmates Beltran and Torres for a fee," the sheriff said, calling it a "hit."
Luna went to trial last week before state Supreme Court Justice Richard Mott. Attorneys offered closing arguments Thursday. Juros, who began deliberating, were to return to court and continue deliberations Friday morning. Apple said Luna was moved to a special housing area away from Torres and Beltran. Luna could face charges for the alleged threat.
"We have a very large facility and I can hide and protect inmates from exact situations like this," Apple said. Earlier Wednesday, a former inmate, Felix Cruz-Lara, testified at the trial that he heard Luna make threats to Torres and his family while in the church of the jail several months ago. Cruz-Lara was in the jail with Luna and his reputed associates on federal cocaine trafficking charges unrelated to Luna's case.
"Mr. Luna said, 'You know if you testify you know what's going to happen. And if I can't get you, I'll get your family,'" Cruz-Lara testified. When asked by the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Jasper Mills, where Luna received his drugs from, Cruz-Lara testified, "Supposedly he was receiving some type of material — I don't know what kind of drug it was — from Ecuador and his sources had something to do with the family of El Chapo Guzman."Guzman is the reputed boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico. According to prosecutors, Luna was a high level dealer in a ring that peddled drugs from the Mexican cartel to West Palm Beach, Fla., to Corona, Queens, and eventually the Buffalo area.
Cruz-Lara testified that four months ago he was in the church of the jail when he heard Luna tell another co-defendant, Mayobanex "Company" Rodriquez, that drugs arrived from Ecuador hidden in fiberglass plantains that had been shipped with real plantains.
Prosecutors began their case after the July 2013 arrest of Miguel Hermenegildo on the Thruway in Bethlehem. Hermenegildo had a kilo of heroin while heading to Buffalo to move drugs. Sam Braverman, the attorney for Luna, said Cruz-Lara was not credible and told outright lies.
"There isn't a part of that guy that isn't the definition of the unreliable person," the attorney said.