TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that 12 individuals were indicted on charges including first-degree racketeering as alleged members of a family-run drug network that distributed large quantities of heroin and fentanyl in a violence-torn area of North Camden. Two additional defendants face weapons charges, bringing the total number of defendants indicted to 14.
Six guns were seized in the investigation, including an illegal, untraceable “ghost gun” and plans and materials to make ghost guns. The ring stamped wax folds of heroin with the brand name “Bad Boys,” which has been linked to three overdoses, including two fatal overdoses.
The defendants were indicted yesterday by a state grand jury in “Operation Strikeout,” a collaborative investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau in cooperation with the Camden County Metro Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey State Police, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia Police Department. Most of the defendants were arrested in October 2019, when arrest and search warrants were executed.
The following two alleged “owners and operators” of the drug network are charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime:
“Through this operation, we dismantled a major drug ring that allegedly was dealing large quantities of heroin and fentanyl in a violence-torn neighborhood in North Camden,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By targeting the entire alleged hierarchy of this network with first-degree charges – including a leader charge for the top ringleader and racketeering charges for 12 defendants – we are sending a strong message that we will prosecute drug traffickers to the full extent of the law. We will continue to collaborate with our partners in Camden and throughout New Jersey to arrest the drug dealers who are driving gun violence in our cities and fueling the opioid epidemic that is destroying so many lives.”
“These arrests are a testament not only to the outstanding work of our attorneys and detectives, but also to the strong working relationships that we have forged with our law enforcement partners in Camden and across the region,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I thank all of the agencies that assisted us in Operation Strikeout. This operation is a great example of intelligence sharing and proactive police work to target a criminal network that had been identified by the Camden County Police Department as a major threat to safety and quality of life.”
“Eliminating this violent drug network that was pedaling poison on the streets of our city will overwhelmingly improve the quality of life for residents and make the North and East Camden neighborhoods a safer place for residents,” said Camden Police Chief Joseph Wysocki. “Ultimately, we know more than 80 percent of fatal overdoses in the city are related to fentanyl adulterated narcotics killing scores of people. This staggering statistic alone underscores the critical work of Operation Strikeout. Furthermore, I want to thank the men and women of the other agencies who brought this case together and got these individuals off our streets.”
“These arrests highlight our continued efforts in Camden to get deadly drugs off the street and stop the violence that all too often goes hand-in hand with drug distribution,” said Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer. “Two people died as a result of deadly doses of heroin mixed with fentanyl that were stamped with a brand name linked to these defendants, and another was shot as a result of the rivalry between drug sets. If not stopped, the number of deaths could have grown. We will continue to work collaboratively with all of the agencies who took part in this investigation to disrupt and eliminate these violent racketeering enterprises.”
“I want to thank the Attorney General for focusing resources and the tools that were needed to dismantle this network of individuals who were terrorizing the city,” said Camden County Sheriff Gilbert “Whip” Wilson. “Our agency was proud to work alongside our law enforcement partners to get these violent criminals off of our streets. Moving forward we will continue to assist our front line partners in eliminating violent crime and opioid distribution, not only making the city safer but improving public safety throughout the county.”
The investigation involved controlled purchases of hundreds of single-dose wax folds of heroin and fentanyl from the drug network beginning in January 2019. The network was based in the 400 block of Grant Street and operated in and around a section of North Camden extending from Grant Street to Elm Street between Coopers Poynt School and Northgate II Park. Most defendants face charges of third-degree distribution of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school.
Eight of the defendants, including Rosado and Cruz, were arrested on Oct. 4, 2019, when the partnering agencies executed arrest and search warrants in Camden and Philadelphia. Segarra was already in jail on the attempted murder charge at the time. Most of the other defendants were arrested later.
Two semi-automatic handguns (one with a defaced serial number), $2,960 in cash, and approximately 285 wax folds of heroin and fentanyl, many bearing the stamp “SpongeBob,” were seized during a search of the residence where Rosado and Cruz live in the 400 block of 40th Street in Camden.
Investigators seized approximately 70 grams of pure fentanyl when they executed a search warrant at a residence on Whitaker Avenue in Philadelphia that Rosado called “the Office,” where he and others allegedly packaged heroin and fentanyl. The residence was an operational narcotics mill equipped with sifters, scales, various cutting agents, wax folds, and five rubber ink stamps used to stamp the following brand names on wax folds: “Bad Boys,” “SpongeBob,” “Glizzy Gang,” “NS,” and “Two Guns.” Heroin stamped with the brand “Bad Boys” has been linked to three overdoses, including two fatal overdoses.
Three semi-automatic pistols – including one illegal “ghost gun” assembled from parts bearing no serial number – were seized at the Philadelphia heroin mill, along with several large-capacity magazines, including a 50-round drum-type magazine. In addition, law enforcement seized polymer and schematic plans to manufacture ghost-gun assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
The investigation revealed that the enterprise had a structured hierarchy with defined roles, including “owners and operators,” “case workers,” “set managers,” and “trappers.” Segarra and Rosado allegedly were the co-owners and operators, and Meligza Cruz was the primary case worker. She allegedly managed the enterprise’s day-to-day drug distribution activities, assigning shifts and workers for the day, and having responsibility for the transfer of drugs and proceeds to and from Rosado and the set managers. The set managers directed the trappers, who were the street-level dealers who conducted hand-to-hand exchanges of drugs and money with buyers. Some ring members served in multiple roles.
The following defendants were charged with first-degree racketeering in “Operation Strikeout” along with Segarra, Rosado, and Meligza Cruz:
In addition to the first-degree racketeering charge, all 12 racketeering defendants listed above face a charge of second-degree conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and, with the exception of Segarra, are variously charged with additional second- and third-degree drug offenses.
The ring included multiple members of an extended family, several of whom live in the neighborhood where the drug network operated. Meligza Cruz, Maria Morales, Emanuel Morales, and Migdoel Morales-Cruz are all related as either siblings or cousins. Other ring members may also be related.
The following two people, who also are family members, were indicted on weapons charges:
Jose Morales, and Jesus Morales Cruz are charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and fourth-degree possession of a defaced firearm in connection with a handgun with a defaced serial number that was seized from a car following a traffic stop on May 8, 2019, as a result of the investigation. Jose Morales also faces a charge of second-degree possession of a weapon as a convicted felon in connection with that gun. Jose Morales was driving the car at the time, but Jesus Morales Cruz is the registered owner of the car.
Meligza Cruz is charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly conducting drug transactions using vehicles while she had her and Rosado’s child, age 1 at the time, in the vehicles.
The following defendants were ordered detained following detention hearings: Wilbert Segarra, Luis Rosado, Ramon Saldana, Michael Canales, Angel Martinez, Emanuel Morales, and Jose Morales.
Deputy Attorney General Mohammad A. Mahmood presented the case to the state grand jury and former Deputy Attorney General Jamey Collidge was assigned to the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Erik Daab and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. Detectives David Swanson and Jon Norcia are the lead detectives for the DCJ Gangs & Organized Crime South Unit, under the supervision of Sgt. Peppi Pichette, Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue, and Chief of Detectives Weldon Powell.
Attorney General Grewal commended the attorneys and detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice and all of the investigators who participated in “Operation Strikeout” for the Camden County Metro Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey State Police, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, DEA in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia Police.
The charge of first-degree leader of a narcotics trafficking network carries a sentence of life in state prison, including 25 years without parole, and a fine of up to $750,000. The charge of promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, consecutive to the sentence for any underlying crime, and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree racketeering and first-degree attempted murder charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $200,000.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted felon carries a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility, and second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or three years, whichever is greater. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Lydon in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Camden County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
The indictment is posted with the press release at this link: https://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases20/pr20200228a.html
For Segarra: Robin Lord, Esq., Trenton, N.J. (on attempted murder case)
For Rosado: Dennis Wixted, Esq., Zucker Steinberg & Wixted, Camden, N.J.
For Meligza Cruz: Megan J. Davies, Esq., Haddonfield, N.J.
For Maria Morales: Public Defender’s Office
For Saldana: Public Defender’s Office
For Velazquez: Public Defender’s Office
For Migdoel Morales-Cruz: David M. Simon, Esq., Camden, N.J.
For Michael Canales: Public Defender’s Office
For Angel Martinez: Public Defender’s Office
For Sanjurjo: Stephen J. Buividas, Esq., Cherry Hill, N.J.
For Emmanuel Morales: Steven A. Traub, Esq., Cherry Hill, N.J.
For Cooper: Undetermined
For Jose Morales: Public Defender’s Office
For Jesus Morales Cruz: Undetermined
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