TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino today announced the indictment of 15 alleged members of a major drug ring, including its alleged leader, Fernando Diaz-Rivera, on charges including first-degree racketeering. Diaz-Rivera allegedly was one of the biggest heroin and cocaine suppliers in Camden and North Philadelphia.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau yesterday obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Fernando Diaz-Rivera, 34, aka “Gordo,” who has homes in Salem City, N.J., and Salinas, Puerto Rico, and 14 associates with first-degree racketeering – carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison – and second-degree conspiracy. The indictment also charges Diaz-Rivera with first-degree leading a narcotics trafficking network, which carries a sentence of 25 years without parole to life in prison, and it charges Diaz-Rivera and an alleged top deputy, Luis Merced, aka “Moodo,” 34, of Philadelphia, with first-degree promoting organized street crime, which carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. Diaz-Rivera, Merced and five others face additional first-degree drug charges. Diaz-Rivera remains in custody in Puerto Rico, and Merced remains in custody in Pennsylvania.
The ring allegedly distributed a combined total of 20 to 30 kilos of heroin and cocaine per month in Camden and North Philadelphia. Most of the defendants were arrested in November 2016 as a result of “Operation Inferno,” an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, conducted with assistance from the New Jersey State Police, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia, Camden County Sheriff’s Department, Camden County Metro Police Department, Pennsville Police, FBI Violent Crimes Task Force in Philadelphia, East Greenwich Township Police Department K9 Unit, and New York City Police Department.
In the months before the takedown, Diaz-Rivera allegedly ran the ring from Puerto Rico, giving orders to other top ring members, particularly Merced. The ring, which has ties to Mexican drug suppliers, allegedly used guns and threats of violence to conduct its business. The Attorney General’s Office seized over six kilos of heroin and about nine kilos of cocaine during the investigation, intercepting shipments from Chicago and Puerto Rico. The drugs were worth over $600,000 wholesale, and once cut and packaged for sale on the street, could have commanded up to $2 million or more.
“Diaz-Rivera allegedly was one of the biggest heroin suppliers in Camden and North Philadelphia, which are major distribution hubs for the heroin and fentanyl-laced heroin killing so many people across the region,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By locking up Diaz-Rivera and his associates, we stopped tens of thousands of doses of heroin from reaching the street each week and undoubtedly saved many lives. This indictment will enable us to keep these defendants behind bars for a long time.”
“The interdiction of major drug traffickers is just one aspect of our comprehensive efforts to address the opiate epidemic,” Porrino added. “We have tightened the regulation and monitoring of opioid prescriptions, and our prescription fraud strike team has criminally charged six doctors with illicitly prescribing opioid pain pills for profit, including two who face first-degree charges of strict liability for drug-induced deaths.”
“This far-reaching investigation exposed the entire hierarchy of this criminal syndicate, enabling us to file a leader charge against Diaz-Rivera, who faces a potential sentence of 25-years to life in prison, and to charge all of his associates with first-degree racketeering, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “If you want to dismantle a major drug trafficking network and cut off their deadly supply line of narcotics, this is the way to do it.”
The following defendants were named in the indictment:
Two defendants who were arrested last year pleaded guilty pre-indictment:
Diaz-Rivera allegedly exercised control over the criminal enterprise using several key members, including Merced. He allegedly gave orders to Merced regarding the operation of the enterprise, and Merced in turn gave orders to lower-level members of the enterprise. Merced allegedly was responsible for the enterprise’s finances, managing its supply of drugs, dealing with the enterprise’s suppliers, and overseeing the enterprise’s street-level drug sets.
Diaz-Rivera also allegedly gave orders to several of the enterprise’s wholesale distributors, including:
These wholesale distributors allegedly brokered deals for kilogram quantities of drugs to be fronted to lower-level members of the enterprise and collected proceeds from drug sales to be funneled back to Diaz-Rivera through Merced.
The individuals being fronted drugs sold them to drug sets in Camden and North Philadelphia on a wholesale level and ran their own drug sets in those locations. These members of the enterprise allegedly included:
At Diaz-Rivera’s direction, Merced allegedly used a portion of the proceeds to reinvest in new product. The rest allegedly was given to Diaz-Rivera’s girlfriend, Karina Olmeda-Burgos. Diaz-Rivera instructed Olmeda-Burgos on what to do with the money. Diaz-Rivera and Olmeda-Burgos are charged in the indictment with second-degree money laundering.
In late September, Medero and Aleisha Marin-Vializ allegedly drove from Camden to Chicago to pick up 10 kilograms of drugs on behalf of the enterprise. They arrived back in Camden in the early morning hours of Oct. 2. The rental car they were driving was stopped by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice, and approximately five kilograms of cocaine and five kilograms of heroin were found under the rear seat of the vehicle.
Padilla allegedly had an alternative supplier, Jonathan Contreras, who allegedly arranged to send drugs through the mail from a supplier in Puerto Rico to himself and Marcos Mendoza at addresses in Camden. Two packages were intercepted by the Division of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Postal Service, and four kilos of cocaine were seized.
The first-degree charge of leading a narcotics trafficking network carries a sentence of up to life in state prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 25 years without possibility of parole, and a fine of up to $750,000. The first-degree charge of promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison. The racketeering charge carries a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. The racketeering charge carries a fine of up to $200,000, while the first-degree narcotics possession and distribution charges carry a fine of up to $500,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Camden County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear at a later date for arraignment.
Detectives Peppi Pichette and Brian Woolston were the lead detectives for Operation Inferno, and Deputy Attorney General Rachael Weeks is the lead attorney. They were assisted by other detectives and attorneys of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crimes Bureau South Unit, under the supervision of Lt. Robert Feriozzi, Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue, Deputy Bureau Chief Erik Daab and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.
Attorney General Porrino thanked the following law enforcement agencies and all of their members who assisted the Division of Criminal Justice in Operation Inferno:
For Diaz-Rivera: Unknown.
For Merced: Jack McMahon, Esq., Philadelphia, Pa.
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