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41 Charged in Takedown of Major Drug Network with Ties to Latin Street Gangs in Camden

TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that 25 alleged drug dealers were arrested today in the takedown of a major narcotics distribution network with ties to the Ñetas that was dealing large quantities of heroin in the area of 4th and Royden Streets in Camden. Arrest warrants were issued for 41 people, including 28 alleged members of the network and 13 other alleged drug dealers from outside the network who were charged as a result of the investigation.

 

Beginning early today, a multi-agency force fanned out across Camden to make arrests. By 11 a.m., 25 defendants were in custody, and 16 others were being sought on warrants. The charges stem from Operation Billboard, a nine-month investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the Camden City Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Today’s arrests include the alleged leader of the network, Noel Gonzalez, 43, of Camden, a reputed member of the Ñetas, who 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. Gonzalez and 27 other alleged members of his organization, including his top deputies, are charged with first-degree racketeering. That charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a period of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed.

The narcotics network was dealing up to tens of thousands of dollars in heroin per week. In addition to Gonzalez, the leaders of the network include other members of the Ñetas and Latin Kings street gangs. Nine defendants have been charged in the past with violent crimes or weapons offenses. The 13 alleged drug dealers from outside of the network who were charged in Operation Billboard include two men from the “Top 10” list of violent offenders in Camden compiled by law enforcement authorities: Joseph Serrano, 30, aka “Joey Crack,” and Kevin Hannah, 47, aka “ICU.” The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office is pursuing suspected links, developed through this investigation, between this drug network and several unsolved homicides in Camden.

“The culture of violence in our cities is rooted in a culture of drug dealing. With investigations such as this one, we are taking aim at the primary threat to the safety and quality of life of Camden residents,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “We charge that Noel Gonzalez, a reputed Ñetas member, led a highly structured heroin network that tightly controlled its territory in the violence-torn neighborhood around 4th and Royden Streets. With these arrests, we have dismantled his criminal enterprise and taken additional violent offenders from outside of his network off of the street.”

“The value of long-term investigations such as Operation Billboard is that they enable us to take down the upper echelons of drug networks, not just the lower-level dealers who conduct hand-to-hand transactions on the street,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By building a strong racketeering case, we can put these criminals in prison for a long time.”

“The takedown today and the investigation leading up to it are further examples of the day-to-day cooperation among all levels of law enforcement operating in the city and the county,” said Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk. “We expect that information obtained from this investigation will lead to additional arrests for other serious crimes.”

“Residents in the area where these thugs have been operating are tired of having their lives negatively defined by the threat of flagrant drug dealing and daytime shootings,” said Chief John S. Thomson of the Camden City Police Department. “This takedown will bring welcome relief for the good people of these neighborhoods, who want security and peace for their families. I thank Attorney General Chiesa for joining forces with us to make Camden safer.”

The investigation revealed that Noel Gonzalez ran a large-scale drug distribution network that was supplying at least four open-air drug “sets” dealing heroin at the following locations:

  • 4th and Royden Streets,
  • West and Royden Streets,
  • Royden and Henry Streets,
  • 4th and Spruce Streets.

The network also allegedly conducted drug deals at numerous locations in the surrounding area.

The network had a hierarchy with well-defined roles including “case workers,” “set managers,” “trappers,” and “runners.” Case workers were responsible for day-to-day operation of the network’s drug distribution activities, including the transfer of narcotics and proceeds to and from Gonzalez and street-level set managers. Set managers insulated the case workers and the upper echelons of Gonzalez’s network from the street level “trappers” or dealers. Trappers conducted hand-to-hand exchanges of narcotics and currency involving buyers of the network’s heroin. Runners re-supplied the trappers with heroin.

The finances of the network were built around selling “bundles” of heroin. A bundle consists of approximately 14 bags – small wax paper folds stamped with a brand – with each bag being sold for $10, giving each bundle a street value of approximately $140. The first 10 bags sold, or the first $100, from each bundle allegedly went directly to Gonzalez. The case workers received the $10 in proceeds from the eleventh bag of each bundle sold by the set managers. It is believed that the set managers and trappers divided the $30 from the last three bags sold from each bundle. The number of bundles a set manager was permitted to handle at one time was based on their reliability as determined by network leaders. Along with their duties of managing set managers, the case workers also sold drugs to purchasers who bought multiple bundles of heroin.

The arrested individuals were lodged in the Camden County Jail. Bails for the members of Gonzalez’s network were set at $300,000 to $1.5 million. Authorities executed search warrants at Gonzalez’s residence in the 1200 block of Collings Road and four other residences. During the arrests and searches, authorities seized approximately three-quarters of a kilo of heroin; approximately $52,000 in cash; about $20,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency, and a .40-caliber handgun. In addition, orders were obtained to seize and restrain 17 vehicles belonging to Gonzalez and other members of his network.

The defendants were charged as follows [* indicates that defendant is in custody]:

Alleged Leaders

  1. Leader: *Noel Gonzalez, 43, of Camden (alleged Ñetas gang member). Leader of a Narcotics Trafficking Network (1st degree), Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (1st degree).
  2. Managing Partner: *Michael Rivera, 28, of Camden, aka “Bute.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Money Laundering (3rd degree).

Alleged Case Workers

  1. Angel L. Martinez, 28, of Camden, aka “Gunz” (alleged Ñetas gang member). Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree).
  2. *Fred Alvarado, 47, of Camden, aka “Freddy” (alleged Latin Kings gang member). Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  3. Jonathan Santiago, 32, of Camden, aka “Shorty Chico.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  4. *JessMarie Ramirez, 30, of Camden, aka “Jessie.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (2nd degree).
  5. *William Alvarez, 36, of Camden, aka “June.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  6. *Samuel Serrano, 24, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree).

Alleged Set Managers

  1. Michael Ortiz, 19, of Camden, aka “Mikey.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree).
  2. *Edgardo Ortiz, 20, of Camden, aka “Bebe.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  3. *Jonathan Roman, 22, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  4. Wilkins Castro, 32, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  5. *George Rivera, 27, of Camden, aka “Angel.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  6. Cindy M. Scanes, 26, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).

Alleged Trappers and Runners

  1. *Juan Santana, 53, of Camden, aka “Chino.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  2. Luis Vasquez, 20, of Camden, aka “Lou.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  3. Christopher Vasquez, 21, of Camden, aka “Chris.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  4. Hassan Torres, 24, of Camden, aka “Haz.” Racketeering (1st degree), Distribution of PCP (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  5. *William Rivera, 30, of Camden, aka “Butch.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  6. *Sebastian Cordero, 19, of Camden, aka “Seb.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  7. Douglas Soto, 24, of Camden, aka “D-Block.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  8. *Julio Medina, 21, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  9. Jose Diaz, 20, of Camden, aka “.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  10. Calvin J. Lewis, 22, of Blackwood. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  11. *Jonathan Vazquez, 18, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  12. Jorge Pena, 44, of Camden, aka “Tito.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  13. *Timothy Peters, 19, of Camden, aka “White Boy.” Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  14. *Giovanni Mercado, 21, of Camden. Racketeering (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).

Additional Alleged Drug Dealers Charged in Operation Billboard

  1. *Joseph Serrano, 30, of Camden, aka "Joey Crack" (alleged Bloods gang member). Distribution of PCP (1st degree).
  2. *Kevin Hannah, 47, of Camden, aka "ICU." Distribution of PCP (1st degree).
  3. *Omar Santiago, 31, of Camden, aka "Omar." Conspiracy (2nd degree).
  4. *Rafael Vicente, 46, of Camden, aka "Popeye." Conspiracy (2nd degree).
  5. *Conno Laboy, 21, of Camden. Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (2nd degree).
  6. *Virgilio Vargas Jr., 25, of Camden. Conspiracy (2nd degree).
  7. Jose Bonilla, 36, of Camden, aka "Chino" (alleged Bloods gang member). Distribution of PCP (1st degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree).
  8. *Jose Ramos, 33, of Camden, aka "Jay." Distribution of Heroin (2nd degree), Conspiracy (3rd degree).
  9. Miguel Andujar, 44, of Camden. Distribution of PCP (1st degree).
  10. Jose Rodriguez, 27, of Camden, aka "Papito." Distribution of PCP (2nd degree).
  11. *Vincent Porrata, 46, of Pennsauken, aka "Lluvia." Distribution of Heroin (1st degree), Possession of Heroin (3rd degree), Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree), Distribution of Heroin w/in 1000 Feet of a School (3rd degree).
  12. Jose R. Adames, 50, of Woodlynne. Distribution of Heroin (3rd degree), Distribution of Heroin w/in 1000 Feet of a School (3rd degree), Possession of Heroin (3rd degree).
  13. *Marisol Beltran-Alvarez, 47, of Haddon Township. Distribution of Heroin (1st degree), Possession of Heroin (3rd degree), Distribution of Heroin w/in 1000 Feet of a School (3rd degree).

Operation Billboard was conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Camden City Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Assistance was provided by Audubon Police Department and Haddon Township Police Department. Attorney General Chiesa credited Detective Peppi Pichette, Detective Brian Woolston, Detective James Blong III, Detective Jeffrey Lorman, Detective Richard Dasilva Jr., Detective Naike Kudlik, Sgt. Andrea Salvatini, and Sgt. Richard Carlin of the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Chuck Foley. Attorney General Chiesa credited Deputy Attorney General Andrew Johns, Deputy Attorney General Jill Mayer and Deputy Attorney General Julia Glass, under the direction of Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, Chief of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Bureau Chief. Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller obtained the civil forfeiture orders. Attorney General Chiesa also credited all of the individuals who worked on the operation for each of the participating agencies.

The complaints that were filed are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The charges will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment. The charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network carries a sentence of life in prison, including 25 years without parole, and a criminal fine of up to $200,000. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

 

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