YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Fifteen people arrested in the take-down of a large-scale New Jersey heroin trafficking network have been charged in a 36-count indictment returned by a Bergen County grand jury.
The investigation that led to the indictment represents a new approach to fighting the spread of a drug that Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said plays a huge role in local burglaries, thefts and robberies.
It also involved members of no fewer than 28 New Jersey law enforcement agencies at the local, county, state and federal levels, many of whom were part of a three-county multi-jurisdictional task force that stretched from Hackensack to Paterson to Trenton..
During the investigation and subsequent arrests, authorities seized more than 1,000 bricks of heroin that, if sold in individual bags, could fetch anywhere from $250,000 to $1.25 million dollars depending on how it is cut and distributed. They also confiscated $110,000 in alleged drug proceeds that Molinelli said his office will seek a judge’s order to keep for law enforcement uses in Bergen.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT broke the news the morning of May 2: Multi-agency heroin raid nets 113 arrests, 50,000 bags, $110,000 cash
Along with those named in the indictment, authorities arrested nearly 100 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 for buying or having drugs on them when stopped. Molinelli ( photo, above ) then posted their mugshots or driver’s license photos online.
The prosecutor said a staggering 28 heroin overdose deaths in Bergen County last year left him no choice but to change gears and go after both dealers and users — both within and outside the county: Bergen prosecutor: ‘Whole new approach’ to fighting drugs yields sellers, buyers .
Among those named in the indictment are two Paterson men, Christian “Unc” Chiuyare, 33, and 28-year-old Felix “Munch” Melendez, who are both charged with being leaders of a narcotics network. They and five co-conspirators are also charged with “conspiracy to engage for profit in a scheme to unlawfully manufacture, distribute, dispense, bring into or transport in this state heroin,” in the indictment returned in Hackensack.
Chiuyare is named in seven counts and Melendez in 10, including one counts of having a defaced Smith & Wesson Model SW9V handgun and another for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Melendez, who was released from state prison in April 2012 after serving more than five years for drug and weapons charges, is also charged along with four others with being an “organizer / supervisor / financier or manager” of a drug network.
A conviction for the first-degree offense of leading a drug-trafficking network carries a life sentence and a mandatory 25 years behind bars before parole eligibility.
Both Chiuyare and Melendez have been held on $750,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail since their April arrests.
Also held on $750,000 bail were two other defendants whom authorities have identified as major players: Imier “Mier” Green, 19, of Trenton and 29-year-old Kyle “K” Pittman of Ewing.
Green is charged in the indictment with having a Springfield Armory USA XD9 handgun and a Glock 17 handgun — both stolen — and a large-capacity ammunition magazine.
Pittman is charged in the indictment with having a defaced .22-caliber GSG-522 pistol and a large-capacity ammo magazine, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Both are also charged with offenses stemming from manufacturing and/or distributing drugs and conspiracy.
Another alleged ringleader, Zamier “Za” Gee of Paterson, has been free since Sept. 11, after his bail was slashed to $75,000 from $750,000. He turned 20 yesterday.
Among others who were named:
Seth J. Pittman, 27, of Trenton was bailed out in August after the amount was dropped to $150,000.
Two Paterson men, Steven “N.O.” Williams, 29, who’s charged with conspiracy and with transporting more than $7,000 in drug proceeds, and 25-year-old Anthony “Baby D” Johnson, remained behind bars after having their respective bail amounts reduced to $200,000 from $750,000.
Several others are named in the indictment, but those mentioned above face the most severe charges.
Mugshots and other info can be found here: HEROIN DISTRIBUTION ARRESTS
The key moment in the investigation occurred on April 26, when task force detectives – assisted by federal Homeland Security ICE agents – crashed a drug deal between Melendez and the Pittmans in Paterson, Molinelli said at the time. They found 1,000 bricks (50,000 bags) of heroin stamped “Miami Heat,” “Grand Cru,” and “Frank Lucas,” and arrested Melendez, Chiuyare and the Pittmans. They also seized the $110,000.
Detectives quickly executed six search warrants at various locations in Paterson and recovered more heroin and a handgun, the prosecutor said.
At the very same time, detectives from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, State Police, Trenton Police and the DEA executed eight search warrants at various locations. They seized three guns, along with heroin stamped “9½ plus” and “Victoria’s Secret” – which Molinelli said Melendez and Chiuyare were known to sell.
Arrested in Trenton were Andrea L. Hunter, Isiah Green, and Anthony Robbins, all of whom were named in the indictment returned last week, along with Alejandro Serrano, Gregory C. “Whitey” Hrebenak Jr., Aaron Smith and Jabreel F. Abdullah.
- The Bergen, Passaic and Mercer County prosecutors’ offices;
- From Bergen: Police from Hackensack, Paramus, Glen Rock, Ramsey, Allendale, Saddle Brook, Elmwood Park, Fair Lawn and Upper Saddle River;
- Also from Passaic County: Police from Paterson, Clifton, Wayne, Totowa, Woodland Park, Bloomingdale, West Milford, Ringwood, Little Falls and Pequannock.
- Additional support was provided by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration’s Camden and Newark Field Divisions, Molinelli said.
- “Valuable assistance was provided by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office coordinating the investigation with the Trenton Police Department and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department with search and arrest warrants in the Trenton area,” the prosecutor at the time.
- “Special technical assistance which proved to be extremely helpful to this investigation was provided by the Department of Homeland Security Customs/ICE,” he added.
PHOTO, TOP (May 2, 2013): Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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