Hiding in plain sight: Bronx anti-gun activist nabbed for illegal drugs, firearms
An anti-gun violence activist was arrested over charges related to illegal drugs and illegal firearms possession, with investigators dubbing him as a criminal hiding “in plain sight.”
Police from New York state’s Orange County announced the arrests of 15 people for an alleged interstate drug trafficking conspiracy during an Aug. 1 press conference. They disclosed that Yonkers resident Michael Rodriguez, 48, was the main supplier of the drug network. He is incidentally the director of the Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence (BRAG) program, which is under the nonprofit Good Shepherd Services (GSS).
Orange County District Attorney (DA) David Hoovler said police officers seized more than 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of cocaine and other paraphernalia from Rodriguez’s residence. Two guns – one with a defaced serial number – and more than $165,000 in cash were also confiscated on July 26, the day he was taken into custody.
The BRAG director was charged with first-degree criminal possession of cocaine, a controlled substance. He was also charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree conspiracy. The latter charges centered on his alleged role in supplying narcotics to others, who would sell them.
According to Hoovler, Rodriguez could now face between 12.5 and 25 years behind bars on conspiracy charges and up to 24 years for cocaine possession. He was booked at Orange County Jail without bail on Aug. 3, where he remains as of writing.
The DA and members of law enforcement detailed the arrest of Rodriguez and 14 others during the Aug. 1 briefing. The undercover effort dubbed “Operation Hide in Plain Sight” spanned almost two years.
It originally targeted a female Orange County resident who shared the suspect’s surname, who investigators claimed was an alleged big-time narcotics supplier in Middletown from the time she was 15 years old. The woman’s phone was tapped, leading to many of her associates being unmasked – including Rodriguez, who she reportedly sources her drugs from.
Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw also remarked that this wasn’t Rodriguez’s first brush with the law, adding that he is a four-time felon. The criminal complaint against the activist noted his 1999 conviction for third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Orange County DA: Rodriguez’s arrest over gun charges “ironic”
“The very guy that we have that’s supposed to be stopping gun violence in one jurisdiction – in New York City (NYC) – is poisoning our jurisdiction up here,” Hoovler remarked. “It’s kind of ironic that it’s ‘Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence.’ He had two guns.”
“These charges are the exact opposite of the good work cure violence groups are doing,” Bronx DA Darcel Clark said in a statement. “The allegations of drug trafficking and gun possession against Rodriguez are shocking and disturbing, especially since he has attended anti-violence events and peace marches portraying himself as someone who cares about stopping the violence in our community.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for BRAG and GSS said: “We are aware of this 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 office of NYC Mayor Eric Adams commented that Rodriguez’s actions do not reflect those of GSS or the Big Apple. A spokesperson said: “Although this defendant is not employed by the city, we find the allegations in this case very troubling and not representative of the outstanding work being done by violence interrupters in our communities.” (Related: New York City becomes ‘gun control’ murder hub as 25 people shot in just two days.)
“We will continue a holistic approach to neighborhood safety, including the courageous ‘boots on the ground’ prevention work being done by violence interrupters, to help make NYC a safer city for all.”
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