NEW YORK — The Craigslist ad offered black-market Percocet pills for sale with the request: "No LE please." Meaning: No law enforcement.
The 40-year-old man accused of placing the ad was among 21 people arrested in an attempt by the New York Police Department to make an example out of some of the smallest of small-time drug dealers: students, young professionals and others who clean out the medicine cabinet and offer the pills for up to $20 a pop on the Internet.
"Whether the drug deal occurs on the street corner or on the Internet, it's a crime," Bridget Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, said Thursday in a statement announcing the arrests.
Undercover investigators began answering Craigslist ads late last year. By the time they were done, they had made 63 buys — about $19,000 in pills and $10,400 in cocaine. They would buy handfuls of powerful prescription painkillers and other pills for a few hundred dollars, typically in broad daylight and in public settings such as coffee shops, Penn Station or Greenwich Village.
Some of the sellers turned out to be run-of-the-mill drug dealers also peddling cocaine and heroin, police said. But many were more mainstream: a New York University graduate student, a financial adviser and a 62-year-old woman who works as a freelance photographer. The pills came from the sellers' own meds or were stolen from relatives, friends and co-workers, authorities said.
The arrests come as law enforcement agencies nationwide battle a surge in illegal sales of highly addictive painkillers.
A criminal complaint accused Anthony Vargas, the Manhattan man who politely asked police not to respond to his ad, of meeting the same undercover officer four times in the summer to sell dozens of oxycodone pills. Vargas, 40, was sentenced to nine months in jail Wednesday after pleading guilty.