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ANATOMY OF A DRUG BUST: Paterson Detectives Smash Street-Level Crew At Familiar Corner

Mill Street on the left and Oliver Street on the right feed traffic onto southbound Route 21 in Paterson.
Mill Street on the left and Oliver Street on the right feed traffic onto southbound Route 21 in Paterson. Photo Credit: GoogleMaps

A street-level drug operation that opened for business off a highly-trafficked corner in Paterson around 7 a.m. each day had reached an estimated $90,000 a month in sales before city detectives put a stop to it, authorities said.

Investigators seized two pounds of cocaine, dozens of pills and more while arresting six people during an investigation centered on a corner that pours constant traffic onto southbound Route 19, Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said.

They also found a ledger that kept detailed track of sales, he said.

The crew's primary bases of operation were an apartment above a grocery store on the corner and a ramshackle home two doors down, authorities said.

Working from his Mill Street apartment, accused ringleader Juan "Carlito" Delacruz, 39, employed two main runners who split shifts daily: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Speziale said.

One of them, Edwin Aviles, 57, is a neighbor of Delacruz's who lives at the other targeted location on the Oliver Street access road to the highway, the director said.

The other, a man known only as "Billy," died during the course of the investigation, he said.

Detectives were as organized as the crew, Speziale said. They made undercover purchases, arrested buyers, obtained search warrants and kept a constant eye on comings and goings at the familiar intersection.

One of the defendants, Edin Carovac, 35, of Wallington, was carrying a bag of cocaine that he'd just bought from Ramon Vargas when investigators stopped him blocks away, the director said.

Moments later, Vargas, 35, made another sale, he said.

Investigators quickly moved in at that point, raiding the targeted locations and making arrests.

In addition to the cocaine, they seized 60 Percocet and suboxone pills, an ounce of pot and $4,412 in suspected drug cash, Speziale said.

Arrested on various drug charges were Delacruz and Vargas, as well as accused dealers Cindy Elias, 27, who lives on Mill Street with Delacruz, and Gilberto Ruiz, 53.

Some were ordered held in the Passaic County Jail pending first appearances in Central Judicial Processing Court in Paterson. Others were released pending hearings.

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