Fourteen Paterson drug dealers who defended their turf against rivals by heavily arming themselves with guns and large-capacity magazines were charged in a major sweep, state and local authorities announced Thursday.
Five handguns were seized, including a “community gun” shared by members of the “400 Block” set of the Trinitarios, who authorities said dominated the heroin, cocaine and opioid pill trade in the center of the city.
So were nearly 800 rounds of ammunition and six large-capacity magazines, they said.
New Jersey’s new chief law enforcer, Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck (inset photo above), came to Paterson on Thursday to announce the results of “Operation Park and Pennington,” which he said aims to stem an escalating drug war featuring frequent gunfire.
One of those charged, 26-year-old “street boss” Joseph Landrau, was shot four times a month ago, apparently by rivals, Bruck said.
Two other defendants -- Jussy Geraldino, 23, and Kreemlin Alcantara, 22 -- escaped injury when they were fired upon on May 24, he added.
Detectives listened through a tapped phone as Landrau spoke with the set leader, Eric Polanco, 27, after he was shot, Bruck said.
“People want war, so we going to have war….,” Polanco reportedly told him.
Beginning last Thursday, authorities arrested 10 of the 14 defendants charged following an eight-month investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and the Paterson Police Narcotics Unit, Bruck said.
Four others were being sought on arrest warrants, he said.
The set has controlled a large territory extending from Market Street to Park Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Madison Avenue, which Bruck said essentially invites violent confrontation with rival drug gangs.
“We’re going after those who fuel gun violence in Paterson and other New Jersey communities,” said Bruck, who became New Jersey’s acting attorney general after Gurbir S. Grewal took a job as the federal Securities and Exchange Commission’s top law enforcer.
Polanco and Landrau were charged with racketeering, promoting organized street crime and weapons offenses, Bruck said.
So was their accused cocaine supplier, Robert “Goofy” Santiago, 60, he said.
Also charged with drug and racketeering offenses were seven fellow Paterson residents:
- James Artuyo, 40;
- Jussy Geraldino, 23;
- Hipolito Guzman, 25;
- Samuel Miranda, 26;
- Avi Munoz, 24;
- Elvin Munoz, 25;
- Arlington Santos-Medina, 24.
Still at large on Thursday were:
- Eric Polanco’s brother, Gregory Polanco, 28, of Haledon;
- Kreemlin Alcantara, 22, of Paterson;
- Adrian Eyzaguirre, 31, of Clifton;
- Mike Martinez, 30, also of Clifton.
A 15th defendant, Santiago’s son, Robert “Macho” Santiago, 24, of Paterson, was arrested on drug charges, Bruck said.
Seven search warrants were executed on July 15, he said.
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., the attorney general said.
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 “Goofy” Santiago, he added.
Police recovered a “community” handgun after Gregory Polanco tossed it into a trash can when he thought they were following him, Bruck said.
Another community gun that Landrau used to protect himself after he was shot was also seized, the attorney general said.
Detectives also seized 40 heroin fold, more than five ounces of cocaine packaged for sale, 40 vials/bags of crack cocaine, 60 Oxycodone pills, 22 Percocet pills and 10 Xanax pills.
A judge ordered Eric Polanco, Landrau, Roberto “Goofy” Santiago, Artuyo and Geraldino held pending trial.
The rest were all released, with conditions, pending further court action.
New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben is heading the prosecution. Detective Russell Kingsland was lead investigator for the state Division of Criminal Justice, which conducted the investigation in tandem with Paterson police and assisted by the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section, Bruck said.
The operation is “another step towards reducing gun violence in New Jersey,” Bruck said.
“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,” his office said in a statement.
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