NEWARK, NJ—Two members of an alleged drug trafficking ring based in Elizabeth, New Jersey and operating throughout the Northeast and Puerto Rico made their initial court appearances today, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Nelson Yordan, a/k/a Carlos, 27, of Waterbury, Connecticut, and Michael Rosario, 28, of Hagerstown, Maryland, were both charged by complaint with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. They made their initial appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark federal court.
Yordan and Rosario are among 15 people arrested over the past three weeks by FBI agents and local police in connection with a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing cocaine and heroin in the Elizabeth, New Jersey; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Hartford, Connecticut; and Hagersville, Maryland areas.
Also charged by complaint in connection with the alleged drug operation are: Roberto Rentas Negron, a/k/a El Duro; Kelmit Velazquez; Antonio Vazquez, a/k/a Panta; Fernando Duarte Castro; Julio Martinez Jr., 43, of Elizabeth; Lorenzo Carballo, 28, of Elizabeth; Hector Espinoza, a/k/a Will, 27, of Elizabeth; William Crespo, a/k/a Negro, 33, of Allentown, Pennsylvania; Melvin Gerena, a/k/a Flaco, 29, of Elizabeth; Marco Rodriguez, 26, of Elizabeth; Jerel Evans, a/k/a Gigante, 25, of Elizabeth; Robert Evans, a/k/a Gigante’s Brother; and Christian Reyes, a/k/a Enano. Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substances.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Three of the defendants—Negron, Velazquez, and Vazquez—were arrested November 30, 2012, after FBI agents learned that Negron and Velazquez were plotting to murder a rival drug dealer who had reportedly stolen one kilogram of heroin from the organization. They made their initial court appearances before Judge Falk on December 3, 2012 and were ordered detained pending trial. After their arrests, many of their co-conspirators reportedly took measures to evade law enforcement, including changing cell phones and fleeing to other states.
As part of a coordinated operation, federal, and local law enforcement authorities subsequently located and arrested: Duarte Castro on December 3, 2012 in Newark; Carballo and Espinoza on December 13, 2012 in Elizabeth; Crespo in Allentown; Yordan in Hartford; and Rosario in Hagersville; on December 14, 2012. After fleeing to Puerto Rico, Rodriguez turned himself in to the FBI in San Juan on December 19, 2012.
Martinez and Gerena were previously arrested by the Elizabeth Police Department on unrelated charges and remain in state custody pending their transfer to face the federal charge. The other three defendants remain at large.
Between November 2011 and November 30, 2012, law enforcement was involved in an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in the Elizabeth and Newark areas. The organization had people in Puerto Rico and elsewhere coordinating shipments of cocaine and heroin through the U.S. mails to New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The narcotics would be concealed in items such as candles and children’s toys. Individuals in New Jersey would coordinate these shipments, process or “cut” the narcotics, and distribute the narcotics to locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, and other locations.
Law enforcement in New Jersey identified Rentas Negron as the person who coordinated the acquisition of the drugs, the processing and packaging of the cocaine and heroin, the resale of the narcotics, and the distribution of the proceeds from drug sales. Vazquez frequently supplied narcotics to Rentas Negron. Reyes coordinated shipments of narcotics from Puerto Rico. The other members of the DTO cut, processed, packaged, stored, and distributed the narcotics and occasionally traveled to Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, and other states in order to obtain cocaine to distribute in the Elizabeth area.
The counts with which Yordan, Rosario, Negron, Velazquez, Martinez, Carballo, Espinoza, Crespo, Jerel Evans, Robert Evans, Gerena, and Rodriguez are charged carry a minimum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. The counts with which Vazquez and Reyes are charged carry a minimum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine. The count with which Duarte Castro is charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in charge Michael B. Ward; U.S. Postal Inspectors, under the direction of Phillip R. Bartlett; law enforcement officers from the New Jersey National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, under the direction of the Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff; the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Theodore J. Romanko; and the Elizabeth Police Department, under the direction of Police Director James Cosgrove, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam N. Subervi and David Eskew of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.