TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that two men have been sentenced to prison in connection with a record-setting seizure last year by the New Jersey State Police of the super-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. The seizure of 45 kilos of fentanyl – 40 kilos seized in North Bergen, together with five kilos seized in a related search in Willingboro – was the largest seizure ever in New Jersey.
Fentanyl is one of the deadliest opioids, with a potency that is 50 times greater than heroin. The 45 kilos – or nearly 100 pounds – of fentanyl seized by the New Jersey State Police in this investigation could have yielded over 18 million lethal doses, since a dose as small as 2 to 3 milligrams can be fatal.
The following two men pleaded guilty on Dec. 18 and were sentenced today and Wednesday, respectively, in Hudson County by Superior Court Judge Nesle A. Rodriguez:
“Many lives were undoubtedly saved as a result of this record-setting fentanyl seizure by the New Jersey State Police,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The 100 pounds of fentanyl trafficked into our state by these drug dealers could have generated enough lethal doses to kill the entire populations of New Jersey and New York City combined. Because dealers use this super-potent opioid to boost heroin and create counterfeit oxy pills, drug users are left to play a deadly game of Russian roulette each time they give way to their addiction.”
Attorney General Grewal added, “We’ll continue to fight the opioid epidemic on every front, by locking up major drug traffickers like these men, prosecuting crooked doctors who indiscriminately prescribe pain pills for profit, going after drug manufacturers who promote addiction through their illegal and mercenary marketing of opioids, deploying Narcan, and supporting drug treatment programs.”
“The 45 kilograms of fentanyl seized last year in this investigation brought home the scope of the problem we face in New Jersey with this highly lethal opioid,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Three years ago, fentanyl was found in only about 2 percent of the heroin tested by the State Police; by late last year, it was found in nearly one-third of the heroin tested.”
“A seizure of this magnitude, which had enough lethal doses to wipe out the entire population of New Jersey twice over, in all likelihood prevented someone from ever taking their first dose, saving them from a life of misery and addiction,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I am proud of the outstanding work of the State Police Trafficking North and South Units and our law enforcement partners who are deeply committed to fighting the opioid epidemic both on the streets and off.”
While it has been spotlighted for killing Prince and other celebrities, fentanyl also is responsible for a growing death toll in New Jersey, where there were 417 overdose deaths from fentanyl in 2015, and over 800 deaths from fentanyl in 2016. Dealers commonly mix fentanyl with heroin or cocaine, or sell it in powder compounds or counterfeit pills disguised as heroin, oxycodone or Xanax. Given the tiny size of a lethal dose, drug users are dying because dealers are careless about how much fentanyl they put in such mixes and pills. Fentanyl is so potent that medics and police have been sickened by contact with it while responding to overdoses or making arrests. In addition to fentanyl, seven fentanyl analogs have been sold on the street in New Jersey. The Attorney General’s Office issued an emergency order last year adding those fentanyl knockoffs to the list of drugs subject to the strictest level of state control.
In the investigation involving Carillo-Pineda and Vasquez, detectives of the New Jersey State Police Trafficking North Unit developed information that a shipment of drugs was being delivered to a location in North Bergen. On June 28, 2017, State Police detectives, assisted by members of the North Bergen Police Department, located and arrested Carrillo-Pineda and Vasquez in the parking lot of a business in North Bergen after observing a drug transaction in which the 40 kilograms of fentanyl were transferred from a tractor-trailer occupied by Vasquez and a second man to the trunk of a Mercedes Benz driven by Carrillo-Pineda. The man with Vasquez, Jesus Yanez-Martinez, also was arrested, but the charges against him were dismissed on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The State Police searched the trunk of the Mercedes and seized the 40 kilos of fentanyl, which were individually wrapped inside two black duffel bags. They also found a handbag containing $1,050 in cash and a small quantity of heroin in the car.
Carrillo-Pineda also was charged – along with Omar Zeus Rodriguez, 38, of Willingboro – in connection with the seizure the next day in Willingboro of five kilos of fentanyl, nearly 40 kilos of heroin, and a smaller quantity of methamphetamine. The drugs were seized by the State Police Trafficking South Unit at Rodriguez’s residence, where Carrillo-Pineda had been staying. Rodriguez was loading suitcases into a Range Rover outside his residence when he was approached by detectives. The drugs were found in the suitcases and an open Fed Ex box in the vehicle’s trunk. Rodriguez, who currently is a fugitive, faces charges that include possession of heroin with intent to distribute (1st degree), possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute (1st degree), and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute (2nd degree).
Deputy Attorney General Norma Garcia is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez was the lead detective for the investigation for the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau North, Trafficking North Unit. Detective Garrett Cullen was the lead detective for the investigation for the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau South, Trafficking South Unit. Attorney General Grewal commended the attorneys and all of the detectives and troopers who participated in the investigation for the State Police. He also thanked the North Bergen Police Department and Willingboro Police Department for their assistance.
For Carrillo-Pineda: Lauriano Guzman, Esq., of Bronx, N.Y.
For Vasquez: Brooke M. Barnett, Esq., BMB Law Firm, Newark, N.J.
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