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$1.68 million Bergen heroin bust nets 7

Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Investigators seized nearly $1.68 million worth of heroin, most of it pure and uncut, while smashing a Bergen County heroin trafficking ring run by, among others, a carjacker who was paroled from a New Jersey prison after serving six years of a 17-year sentence.

MUGSHOTS: Bergen County Prosecutor

Tipsters alerted detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force, who began working with their counterparts in several local departments to identify and catch the traffickers, Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said.

The first arrest came on Sept. 28, when they followed two men — later identified as Rasheed Powell, a 36-year-old convicted carjacker from Elizabeth, and Marvin Lagrier, 29, of Newark — as they travelled from Newark onto eastbound Route 46 in Elmwood Park.

They were meeting with someone else when detectives moved in and Powell dropped a large plastic bag on the ground, Molinelli said.

Inside, he said, the detectives found 200 heroin bricks worth about $80,000 if broken down into individual-use bags.

“Some were stamped with the name ‘Takeover,’ others with the name ‘Passion,’ ” Molinelli said. 

A day later came a bigger bust: With the detectives close behind, two other men — identified as Alexis Cartagena, 29, of Jackson Heights, Queens, and 20-year-old Giovanni Mejia of East Elmhurst, also in Queens — took a livery cab to New Jersey to make a delivery, the prosecutor said.

As soon as the car got to Fort Lee, he said, the detectives moved in — and found 300 grams of uncut heroin worth roughly $400,000.

Last week, the detectives hit the motherlode.

Tipped off that three men were delivering a huge amount of raw heroin from Hudson County to a Bergen County hotel, officers set up surveillance points along the main thoroughfares between the two counties.

Eventually, they spotted the Ford Expedition they were looking for headed south on Grand Avenue in Fairview into Ridgefield. After getting stuck in traffic at a police-manned construction site, the driver pulled a U-turn and headed back towards North Bergen, Molinelli said.

The detectives pulled the car over on Kennedy Boulevard, arrested three men — and found 900 grams of raw, uncut heroin worth a whopping $1.2 million.

The three defendants were identified as Manuel Cobas, 45, and Antonio Acosta, 34, both of Jersey City, and the driver, 39-year-old Cesar Soriano-Mejia of Union City.

All seven are charged with heroin possession with the intent to distribute the drug.

They are being held in the Bergen County Jail pending court hearings.

Powell, who had already served time before, was sentenced in 2002 to 17 years in prison for a Hudson County carjacking two years earlier. Records show he was caught with heroin in prison and had 20 months folded into the sentence he was serving. By May 2010, he was a free man.

Molinelli thanked a trio of police chiefs — Elmwood Park’s Donald Ingrasselino, Fort Lee’s Thomas Ripoli and North Bergen’s William Gavin — as well as the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, for helping make the arrests and seizures possible.


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