PATERSON, N.J. -- The top member of a ring that flooded Paterson with heroin admitted his role in the operation on Wednesday in exchange for a minimum 3½-year prison stretch before he's eligible for parole.
Whie 35-year-old Marino Pimentel-Tejada of Paterson was pleading guilty to a first-degree charge of maintaining a heroin production facility, four co-defendants were also admitting their roles in exchange for favorable sentences.
State Police who smashed the ring found a table "overflowing" with glassine envelopes containing the drug, along with grinders, sifters and other packaging materials, a subsequent grand jury indictment returned in October charged.
NJSP investigators found more than $20,000 cash in one defendant's car, along with a handgun and shotgun, in a sealed hydraulic compartment, the indictment said.
Before they were through, authorities had seized three-quarters of a pound of raw heroin and more than $55,000 in cash, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.
“By putting these large-scale suppliers in prison and dismantling their heroin mill, the State Police cut off a major source of heroin in the region and undoubtedly saved lives,” Porrino said.
“All too often, these mills are not only responsible for manufacturing the poison that is heroin," said Col. Rick Fuentes, the State Police superintendent. "[T]hey are responsible for the violence that goes hand-in hand with drug trafficking."
Under his plea deal, Pimentel-Tejada will be sentenced to 10 years in prison -- 36 months of which he must serve before being eligible for parole, Porrino said.
Seven-year prison terms were taken by three other Paterson men: Yinsys Pimentel-Tejada, 28; Manuel Garcia-Tejada, 31; and Nuris Dominguez-Lara, 34, he said.
Deputy Attorney General Brandy Malfitano prosecuted the quartet and took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. The defendants were indicted in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Trafficking North Bureau.
Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark scheduled sentencing for all four on April 13.
A fifth defendant, Robert Grady, 40, of Paterson, pleaded guilty Wednesday to third-degree possession of methamphetamine in exchange for five years in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10.
Detectives initially charged Marino Pimentel-Tejada on June 1, 2016, when they arrested him in a vehicle with Grady with 135 bricks of heroin on 28th Street in Paterson, Porrino said. Each brick consists of approximately 50 single-dose glassines of heroin.
Grady also had several methamphetamine pills, the attorney general said.
State Police late raided Pimentel-Tejada's East 24th Street home, where they found the heroin milling operation.