PATERSON, N.J. -- DEA agents seized a Pennsylvania couple who they said sold tens of thousands of what looked like oxycodone tablets that actually contained heroin to an undercover investigator in Paterson.
A federal judge in Newark on Thursday ordered Francisco Perez, 31, detained and 33-year-old Nadia Moronta Pena released on a $150,000 unsecured bond.
The Hazleton, PA couple are charged with conspiring to distribute heroin in bulk.
Investigators pursuing the manufacture and sale of opioids and other drugs in New Jersey got a tip that Perez was illegally selling oxy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
An undercover agent bought 1,000 of the pills, which were "similar in size, shape, color, and physical markings to 30-milligram oxycodone tablets manufactured by pharmaceutical companies," from Perez on Jan. 23 in Paterson, Carpenito said.
"However, when the pills were tested in a lab, they were found to contain a mixture of Tramadol, a Schedule IV synthetic opioid, and heroin," he said.
The agent again met with Perez in Paterson on Wednesday -- this time to buy 40,000 pills.
"During the meeting, Perez motioned to Pena, who brought over a white bag containing thousands of pills for the undercover agent to examine before the deal," Carpenito said.
"Perez and Pena were then arrested at the scene, and law enforcement agents recovered more than 20,000 additional pills that were similar in appearance to the heroin pills that Perez sold the undercover agent on Jan. 23," he said.
Authorities searched the couple's home in Pennsylvania and recovered various other pills, more than two pounds of heroinm pill-press materials and a box containing several bottles of liquid labeled “Fentanyl,” the U.S. attorney said.
They also found a gun stashed in a wall, he said.
Carpenito credited special agents with the DEA offices in Newark and Scranton, the Hazleton Police Department, and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation leading to the charges.
Prosecuting is Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Wangenheim of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force/Narcotics Unit in Newark.
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