Colin Kroll, a founder of smartphone applications Vine and HQ Trivia, was found dead from an accidental overdose in his Manhattan residence on Dec. 16, 2018.
U.S. States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman announced the unsealing of the indictment Wednesday, stating the suspects had been arrested that morning.
“As alleged, these defendants operated a covert on-demand delivery service for the distribution of highly addictive and dangerous drugs,” Berman said in a statement.
The six defendants — Ariel Tavarez, 38; Christian Baez, 33; Luis Meson, 31; Gregoris Martinez, 34; Kevin Grullon, 25; and Joiffrey Urena, 27 — were charged with one count of conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine in and around New York City from at least January 2017 to September.
According to the indictment, prosecutors accuse the men of selling drugs to customers who place delivery orders via text message to a centralized phone number. The defendants would then arrange for a courier to deliver the drugs within hours of the order having been placed.
In order to avoid detection by authorities, Mike’s Candyshop, which operated seven days a week from 6 p.m. to midnight , only sold to customers who were referred by existing customers, used coded language when corresponding via text messages and periodically changed the centralized phone’s number, among other tactics.
Though Berman does not directly mention the 2018 death of Kroll, he alludes to it by saying that the defendants continued their conspiracy even after they “realized the potency of the drugs.”
The indictment states that “Victim-1” died of an overdose in Manhattan in the vicinity of drugs purchased from Mike’s Candyshop on Dec. 16 of last year, which matches the date and circumstances of Kroll’s death.
New York City’s medical examiner’s office ruled Kroll’s death as accidental due to “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.”
The indictment states that after Kroll’s death, the centralized phone number was changed twice to avoid law enforcement but continued operating.
Kroll is best known for being a founder of smartphone applications Vine and HQ Trivia.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said that at least one overdose death is linked to Mike’s Candyshop.
“This illicit enterprise allegedly allowed people to order heroin and cocaine to their doorstep simply by calling the business phone number with the same convenience as if they were ordering a pizza,” Fitzhugh said.
The defendants were scheduled to be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox in Manhattan Wednesday afternoon.
The one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin comes with a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of up to life.
“Anyone who deals in illegal narcotics must understand that the nation’s best investigators will stop at nothing to fight crime and keep safe all the people we serve,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.