YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Authorities have taken down a major heroin supply network that was distributing millions of dollars worth of the drug to large-scale wholesalers in North Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. from a number of processing mills and stash houses in Paterson.
The accused ringleader, 36-year-old Segundo Garcia, is a Dominican national who was deported but re-entered the U.S. illegally after serving more than five years in federal prison for drug dealing, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said.
Authorities arrested 14 other defendants, and two others remained at large this morning, Chiesa announced today during a news conference at Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik’s office in Paterson.
Chiesa said the arrests stem from “Operation Dismayed,” a six-month investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and DEA New York Division. The New Jersey State Police and DEA New Jersey Division assisted.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, a multi-agency force of officers and agents hit dozens of sites, including homes, in Paterson and Prospect Park, seizing three kilos of bulk heroin, another kilo of heroin packaged in thousands of glassine envelopes for individual sale, and about $255,000 in cash. They also made several arrests.
The heroin has a wholesale value of $300,000 but could sell for well over $1 million when cut and individually packaged, state authorities said.
Chiesa said the drug network is believed to have supplied multiple kilos of heroin per week to other suppliers and large-scale dealers — and not to street-level operatives.
Garcia is charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree crime that carries a sentence of life in prison, including 25 years without parole.
He was also charged with first-degree distribution of heroin, first-degree possession with intent to distribute, and second-degree conspiracy. All other defendants were charged with first-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute or second-degree conspiracy to distribute heroin.
A second defendant, 39-year-old Wilfredo “Willie” Morel, is accused of working with Garcia to obtain large quantities of heroin, Chiesa said. Morel also “exercised independent leadership control over other members of the supply network,” he said. He was charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute heroin.
“Drug dealing is at the heart of the crime and violence plaguing Paterson and our other cities,” Chiesa said, “so taking down major drug suppliers like these defendants, who we allege were polluting our communities by distributing millions of dollars in heroin, will have a real impact on public safety and quality of life.”
“This was a true multi-agency operation,” Berdnik added. “The only way to truly reduce narcotics trafficking and street crime is by arresting the individuals involved in creating and implementing the distribution network.
“This operation will certainly go a long way in reducing drug trafficking in Passaic County.”
New York DEA Special-Agent-in-Charge Brian R. Crowell noted that heroin traffickers “are fueled by the diversion of pain medicine. The tenacity of investigators assigned to this task force has prevented hundreds of thousands of glassines from being distributed to our communities throughout the region.”
Two of five defendants considered lower-level managers were arrested on Route 80 on Oct. 11 when investigators stopped and searched their Dodge Caravan and found 425 bricks of heroin, authorities said.
Another 65 bricks of heroin were seized last week in a search of one man’s house, they said.
Seven “workers” have arrested or are being sought on warrants for processing, packaging and transporting heroin.
Two of them are taxi drivers who shuttled fellow crew members and drugs in their cabs, Chiesa said.
Among the seizures were 1.5 kilos of heroin, a kilo of cocaine, and packaging materials and equipment from an alleged heroin mill located on the first floor of 447 East 21st Street in Paterson.
The cocaine has a street value of approximately $35,000, authorities said.
Authorities seized an additional 1.5 kilos of heroin and $220,000 in cash from a second mill located on the first floor of 246 Maryland Avenue in Paterson. Workers clad in aprons and surgical masks allegedly worked at these and other locations to cut, process and package heroin for the network.
Chiesa said the probe was led Detective Travis Johnson of the state Division of Criminal Justice, along with other members of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Berdnik’s department played a key role, through its Narcotics Enforcement Bureau.
Also participating was DEA Group D-32, with assistance from members of DEA Division 30 and DEA Newark Division, Chiesa said. He also thanked the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section.
Those arrested were being held in the Passaic County Jail. Bail for Garcia was set at $350,000 cash. Cash bails were set for the other defendants, as well — ranging from $125,000 to $250,000.
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