For Immediate Release: May 8, 2023
Office of The Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
New Jersey State Police
– Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent
Division of Criminal Justice
– Pearl Minato, Director
Paterson Police Department
– Frederick Fife, Interim Officer-in-Charge
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, Colonel Patrick J. Callahan Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), Director Pearl Minato of the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), and Major Frederick P. Fife, Interim Officer in Charge of the Paterson Police Department (PPD) today announced collaborative law enforcement efforts that led to the arrest of three individuals in connection with two separate investigations targeting crime in Paterson. One investigation resulted in the seizure of 10 illegal guns and 17 large capacity ammunition magazines (LCMs) before they could make their way into Paterson, and the second led to the takedown of a drug manufacturing facility operating in the city, where multiple kilos of cocaine, heroin, and crystal methamphetamine were seized.
“Keeping illegal guns and drugs out of Paterson is essential to our ongoing efforts to increase public safety and improve the quality of life for city residents,” said Attorney General Platkin. “I commend the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice, and the Paterson Police Department for advancing those efforts through their excellent police work in these operations. By working together to stop the illegal transport of firearms into the city and shut down drug mills operating there, they are demonstrating a shared commitment to making Paterson safer for all.”
The arrests and seizures announced today are the result of two unrelated investigations that are part of the Attorney General’s crime reduction strategy for the City of Paterson:
“Operation 293 Flip” was a joint investigation by the DCJ Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau North Unit and the PPD Narcotics Unit began in February 2023, when detectives from both law enforcement agencies began investigating a suspected drug mill being operated in Paterson. Through various investigative means, detectives allegedly determined that Paterson resident Felix Rodriguez, 40, was operating a CDS production facility from an apartment on East 26th Street.
According to the charges and documents filed in the case, on April 12, 2023, detectives with DCJ and PPD, assisted by members of the NJSP TEAMS Unit and the Passaic County SWAT Team, executed search warrants at the East 26th Street location and at Rodriguez’s apartment on East 28th Street. The search warrants were prepared by a deputy attorney general with the DCJ Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau. At the East 26th Street address, detectives seized two kilos of heroin with a street value of $1 million, four kilos of cocaine with a street value of $220,000, and various paraphernalia indicative of a milling operation for the packaging of CDS. At Rodriguez’s residence on East 28th Street, detectives seized two and a half kilos of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of $400,000, half a kilo of cocaine with a street value of $28,000, and a .357 revolver. Rodriguez was arrested at his residence and transported to the Paterson Police Department for processing.
Rodriguez is charged with first-degree maintaining a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) manufacturing facility, first-degree possession with intent to distribute cocaine, first-degree possession with intent to distribute heroin, first-degree possession with intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine, and second-degree possession of a firearm while committing a CDS offense. He is also charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute CDS (three counts), third-degree possession of CDS (three counts), and third-degree possession of CDS within 1,000 feet of a school (two counts).
Separately, the gun trafficking investigation in Paterson that led to the seizure of 10 illegal firearms and 17 LCMs was led by NJSP Weapons Trafficking North Unit, with assistance from DCJ. The firearms allegedly transported by the defendants, both of whom are residents of Paterson, are believed to have come from out of state.
According to the charges and documents filed in the case, at approximately 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, members of the NJSP Weapons Trafficking North Unit conducted an investigative motor vehicle stop on Route 78 in Greenwich Township of a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas bearing an Illinois registration. After being read their Miranda rights, the driver of the vehicle, Ashraf D. Abedrabbo, 28, of Paterson, and passenger Martha G. Castillo-Medina, 30, of Paterson, gave conflicting information regarding their itinerary.
A subsequent search of the vehicle, conducted with assistance from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, resulted in the seizure of 10 handguns, for which neither defendant had a permit to carry, and 17 LCMs, which are illegal to possess in New Jersey.
Abedrabbo and Castillo-Medina were transported to the NJSP Perryville station in Hampton for processing. Both are charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (10 counts each), as well as unlawfully transporting firearms, conspiring to unlawfully transport firearms, and possession of LCMs, all in the fourth degree. Abedrabbo is additionally charged with second-degree certain persons not to have weapons. Following a hearing before Superior Court Judge Matthew Curry in Warren County on April 26, Abedrabbo was ordered detained in Warren County Jail pending trial.
For Operation 293 Flip, Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Forrest is handling the prosecution for the DCJ Gangs and Organized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. The investigation was conducted for the DCJ Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau by Detective Russ Kingsland, who was lead detective, Sgt. Scott Caponi, Lt. Patrick Sole, and Deputy Chief Kevin Weinkauff. The investigation was conducted for the Paterson Police Department Narcotics Unit by Captain Edwin Rodriguez and Sergeant Angel Gonzalez.
For the gun trafficking investigation, Deputy Attorney General Anna Gildea is handling the prosecution for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Gangs and Organized Crime Unit, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa. The investigation was led by the NJSP Weapons Trafficking North Unit, under the supervision of Sgt. Scott Sanders, with assistance from deputy attorneys general with the DCJ Gangs and Organized Crime Unit.
Attorney General Platkin thanked the NJSP TEAMS Unit and the Passaic County SWAT Team for their assistance in Operation 293 Flip, and also thanked the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit for assistance in the gun trafficking investigation.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three of five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
For Abedrabbo: None of record
For Castillo- Medina: None of record
For Rodriguez: Kenyatta Stewart, Esq.