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Colin Kroll in 2014 / Photo via Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY – Ariel Tavarez, a/k/a “A,” a/k/a “Mike,” was sentenced to 22 years in prison in connection with his conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue, and to distributing narcotics that caused the 2018 death of Colin Kroll, the co-founder of the video hosting service Vine and the trivia game application HQ Trivia.

According to the allegations in the Indictment, and statements made in Court:

Tavarez was the leader of a drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”) that engaged in a drug delivery service, which identified itself as “Mike’s Candyshop.” The DTO delivered heroin and cocaine (sometimes laced with fentanyl and a fentanyl analogue) on demand to customers in New York City, and distributed numerous kilograms of heroin and cocaine throughout the course of the conspiracy. Mike’s Candyshop generally operated seven days per week, from approximately 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., with the exception of major holidays such as Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and Labor Day.

Customers of the DTO placed delivery orders via text message to a centralized phone number (the “Candyshop Number”). The operator of the Candyshop Number was usually Tavarez. Using the Candyshop Number, Tavarez accepted customer orders and subsequently arranged for a courier working for the DTO to deliver the narcotics to the customer, usually within hours of the customer texting his or her order to the Candyshop Number. Certain of the DTO members, including Christian Baez, Luis Meson, a/k/a “Sito,” Gregoris Martinez, a/k/a “Greg,” Kevin Grullon, a/k/a “Kev,” a/k/a “JB,” and Jeffrey Urena, a/k/a “Jeff,” a/k/a “Jay,” served as couriers for the DTO, and regularly delivered and sold narcotics to the DTO’s customers in hand-to-hand drug transactions coordinated through the Candyshop Number.

The DTO stored heroin, cocaine, a fentanyl analogue, and cash from drug sales in various stash locations maintained by the DTO, including in Brooklyn, New York. In an effort to avoid law enforcement detection, the DTO sold only to customers who had been referred by existing customers, periodically changed the Candyshop Number, used coded language to discuss narcotics, and delivered narcotics directly to customers at locations specified by the customer. As a means of marketing its cocaine, and to ensure that the DTO’s customers knew the cocaine provided by the couriers belonged to the DTO, the DTO sold its cocaine in vials sealed with different colored tops.

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Tavarez, the leader of the DTO, used threats of violence, including with firearms, against other members of the DTO to maintain order and eliminate competition from within the organization.

On or about December 16, 2018, Colin Kroll, a customer of the DTO, died of a drug overdose in New York, New York. The narcotics that caused Kroll’s death – cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue – were purchased from Mike’s Candyshop on the evening of December 14, 2018.

Tavarez, 41, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue, the use of which resulted in the death of Colin Kroll on or about December 16, 2018.

Baez, Meson, Martinez, Grullon, and Urena each previously entered a plea of guilty to participating in the Mike’s Candyshop narcotics trafficking conspiracy. Martinez was sentenced on June 29, 2021, to 72 months in prison; Meson was sentenced on September 7, 2021, to 108 months in prison; Urena was sentenced on October 6, 2021, to 40 months in prison; and Grullon was sentenced on October 13, 2021, to 60 months in prison. Baez has not yet been sentenced.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations, the DEA New York Division, the New York City Police Department, and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

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