A total of 29 overdose deaths across New Jersey were tied to fentanyl produced at a Newark opioid mill raided by a strike force of New Jersey State Police and U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents, authorities said Tuesday.
Three accused mill operators were arrested, while more than 15 pounds of fentanyl and three handguns were seized by members of the NJSP Opioid Enforcement Task Force and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), they said.
The defendants sold their product in wax folds stamped with the same brand names linked to 76 total suspected overdoses across New Jersey, including 29 fatalities, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and NJSP Supt. Col. Patrick Callahan said in a joint announcement.
The names included “Passion,” “Thanos,” “Thor,” and “No Days Off,” they said.
Overdoses tied to the drugs produced at the mill included: Middlesex (14), Union (13), Ocean (10), Monmouth (9), Morris (7), Essex (6), and Bergen (5).
The New Jersey State Police Gangs and Organized Crime North Unit and the HSI Transitional Organized Crime and Gang Group (TOCGG) began investigating drug-related crimes in Newark.
This past Sunday, members of the unit, along with T.E.A.M.S, K-9, Crime Scene North, hazmat units and HSI TOCGG, raided a Hobson Street location in Newark.
- Seven kilograms of fentanyl, including a combination of pure fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with cutting agents;
- Three handguns: two .45-caliber handguns and a .380-caliber handgun;
- Two large capacity magazines: a 28-round .45-caliber drum and a 13-round .45-caliber high capacity magazine;
- Thirteen .45-caliber flat nose cartridges.
Detectives also found 59 different rubber stamps the mill operators used to brand the wax folds, Grewal and Callahan said.
Arrested on a host of drug and weapons charges were Whydia Durham, 46, of Union, Dereemus Botts, 34, of Irvington and Nelson Johnson, 30, of Newark.
“We are focusing our efforts on the deadliest mills in New Jersey to choke off the supply of these highly potent drugs at the source where they are mixed and packaged,” Grewal said. “These collaborative efforts will continue to save countless lives, as we also continue to focus on our innovative prevention and treatment efforts.”
“Twenty-nine people lost their lives linked to the brands associated with this mill,” Callahan added, “but the victims were not limited to its physical location.
“Our analysis through the Drug Monitoring Initiative illustrates how quickly deadly narcotics processed in these mills spread across the state.
“Fentanyl is a killer that does not differentiate between the user, police officer, first responder, or child who accidentally comes into contact with it,” the superintendent said. “I commend the State Police detectives and our partners who have without question saved lives as a result of this outstanding investigation.”
The New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force (OETF) was created to address the supply side of the opioid epidemic in New Jersey.
The goal is to attack the supply of illicit opioids using “advanced investigative methods” at the “natural chokepoint” of the supply chain – where heroin and fentanyl are packaged into individual the one-dose folds for street sale.
The OETF is comprised of law enforcement officers from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and police in Cliffside Park, Paterson, Newark, Irvington and Nutley.
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