AG’s Office and Paterson Police Department Join Forces to Reduce Gun Violence by Intervening Before Violent Gang Rivalries Escalate
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PATERSON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced first-degree racketeering charges against 14 alleged drug dealers linked to the Trinitarios street gang who allegedly armed themselves with guns and illegal large-capacity magazines to defend their open-air drug markets from rival gangs.
By arresting members of the “400 Block” set of the Trinitarios, the Attorney General’s Office and Paterson Police acted to halt the local gang’s violent conflicts with rival drug sets, which threatened a significant escalation in the city’s gang violence. Five handguns were seized—including a “community gun” shared by set members—along with nearly 800 rounds of ammunition and six large-capacity magazines, including a 50-round drum-type magazine and three 30-round magazines.
The arrests are the result of “Operation Park and Pennington,” an eight-month investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and the Paterson Police Department Narcotics Unit. Ten racketeering defendants were arrested beginning on Thursday, July 15, and four are being sought on arrest warrants.
Eric Polanco, 27, allegedly runs the drug set, and his closest associate, Joseph Landrau, 26, allegedly acts as the set’s “street boss.” Roberto Santiago, 60, allegedly is a cocaine supplier for the set. In addition to racketeering, those men are charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime, and face weapons charges related to the guns and large-capacity magazines that were seized.
Because of the large territory they control—which extends from Market Street to Park Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Madison Avenue—the 400 Block set allegedly has been involved in “gang wars” with rival drug sets. On June 20, 2021, Landrau was shot four times and severely wounded in a shooting believed to involve a rival gang. Two other defendants, Jussy Geraldino, 23, and Kreemlin Alcantara, 22, were fired upon but not hit on May 24, 2021.
After Landrau was shot, detectives listened through a tapped phone as Eric Polanco discussed violent retaliation with a rival.
In a conversation cited by the State at detention hearings yesterday, Polanco stated: “People want war, so we going to have war….”
“We’re going after those who fuel gun violence in Paterson and other New Jersey communities,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “By focusing our efforts on the criminal organizations and criminal activities that present the greatest threats to public safety, we intend to make our communities safe for the people of this state.”
“This operation is yet another example of our partnership with the Paterson Police Department, and demonstrates our commitment to the residents of this section of Paterson, who live with the daily threat of being caught in the crossfire of rival drug sets,” said Director Lyndsay V. Ruotolo of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll continue to conduct these strategic investigations targeting the gangs, guns, and drugs that are undermining safety and security in too many of our neighborhoods.”
Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said: “We appreciate our strong partnership in support of our common goal of dismantling this criminal enterprise, which will have a far-reaching impact in making a safer Paterson.”
The following 14 alleged members of the drug set have been charged with first-degree racketeering and third-degree conspiracy to distribute narcotics, including heroin, cocaine, opioid pills, and other drugs [*an asterisk indicates the defendant remains at large and is sought on an arrest warrant]:
- Eric Polanco, 27, of Paterson, N.J.
- Joseph Landrau, 26, of Paterson, N.J.
- Roberto Santiago, aka “Goofy,” 60, of Paterson, N.J.
- *Gregory Polanco, 28, of Haledon, N.J.
- *Kreemlin Alcantara, 22, of Paterson, N.J.
- James Artuyo, 40 of Paterson, N.J.
- *Adrian Eyzaguirre, 31, of Clifton, N.J.
- Jussy Geraldino, 23, of Paterson, N.J.
- Hipolito Guzman, 25, of Paterson, N.J.
- *Mike Martinez, 30, of Clifton, N.J.
- Samuel Miranda, 26, of Paterson, N.J.
- Avi Munoz, 24, of Paterson, N.J.
- Elvin Munoz, 25, of Paterson, N.J.
- Arlington Santos-Medina, 24, of Paterson, N.J.
Most defendants face additional second- or third-degree drug charges. A fifteenth defendant, Santiago’s son, Robert “Macho” Santiago, 24, of Paterson, N.J., is not charged with racketeering; he was arrested on drug charges only.
Seven search warrants were executed on July 15. Two handguns, a 50-round drum magazine, and a 30-round magazine were seized at a residence linked to Eric Polanco, and two 30-round magazines were seized at a second residence linked to him. A handgun with a large-capacity magazine was seized at a residence linked to Landrau, and a handgun with a large-capacity magazine was seized at a residence linked to Roberto “Goofy” Santiago. Those three men are charged with second-degree possession of a weapon as a convicted felon and possession of illegal large-capacity magazines.
Gregory Polanco, Eric Polanco’s brother, faces second-degree charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose related to a “community” handgun he allegedly threw in a trash can when he believed police were following him. Eric Polanco, Gregory Polanco, and Landrau face a second-degree gun conspiracy charge in connection with another community handgun that Landrau allegedly carried to protect himself after he was shot on June 20.
During the course of the investigation and execution of search warrants, detectives seized 40 single-dose wax folds of heroin, over 5 ounces of powder cocaine, most of it packaged in single-dose bags for sale, 40 vials/bags of crack cocaine, 60 oxycodone pills, 22 Percocet pills, and 10 Xanax pills.
Eric Polanco, Landrau, Roberto “Goofy” Santiago, Artuyo, and Geraldino were ordered detained pending trial following detention hearings held yesterday. The other arrested defendants were released subject to conditions.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben is lead prosecutor for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez, Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, and DCJ Deputy Director Annmarie Taggart.
Detective Russell Kingsland was lead detective for the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Lt. PJ Sole, former Deputy Chief of Detectives Brian Bruton, and Chief of Detectives Weldon Powell.
The Division of Criminal Justice conducted the investigation in partnership with the Paterson Police Department Narcotics Unit, under the leadership of Captain Bert Ribiero, Chief Ibrahim Baycora, and Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale.
The New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section assisted in the investigation.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The charge of first-degree racketeering carries a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed and an enhanced fine of up to $500,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree charge of possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison without possibility of parole. The third-degree drug charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
This investigation is another step towards reducing gun violence in New Jersey, one of Acting Attorney General Bruck’s key priority areas. In addition to long-term enforcement actions, the Attorney General’s Office and local, state, and federal law enforcement partners are holding a series of gun buyback programs around the state this summer, as well as performing targeted sweeps of fugitives with outstanding arrest warrants for violent offenses, as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence.
For Eric Polanco: Kevin Purvin, Esq.
For Joseph Polanco: Paul Uhlik, Esq.
For Roberto Santiago: Frank Sciro, Esq.
For Jussy Geraldino: Paul Condon, Esq.
For James Artuyo: Thomas McQuillan, Esq.
For Hipolito Guzman: Robert Gallucio, Esq.
For Elvin Munoz: Gregory Aprile, Esq.
For Avi Munoz: John Somohano, Esq.
For Arlington Santos-Media: Gracia Montilus, Esq.