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Federal Fort Lee Fentanyl Bust: Manhattan Man, 64, Could Get 10 Years Without Parole

Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. District Courthouse, Newark, NJ
Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. District Courthouse, Newark, NJ Photo Credit: User:Carptrash, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

A 64-year-old Manhattan man busted by federal Homeland Security agents for dealing nearly a pound of a drug mixture that contained fentanyl in Fort Lee took a guilty plea Tuesday rather than risk the outcome of a trial.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo scheduled sentencing for June 21 after Jose Migel Cleto pleaded guilty in Newark on Jan. 31 to distribution and possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.

Cleto could still get 10 years, which has become a federal mandatory minimum for fentanyl trafficking -- a crime that prosecutors and judges treat more harshly than for heroin, cocaine and other drugs.

The only exceptions are when defendants help the government convict their suppliers in exchange for leniency.

Cleto would have to serve just about all of the sentence, because there's no parole in the federal prison system.

Sellinger said Cleto had "a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl" that he sold in an unidentified commercial parking in Fort Lee in April 2022.

The U.S. attorney credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigations with the investigation leading to the guilty plea, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent D. Romano of his General Crimes Unit in Newark.

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