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Irvington Drug Mill Sold ‘Branded’ Heroin That Killed Dozens: AG

Clockwise from top left:  Steffany Castillo-Candalari, Nelfy Ulerio, Jonathan Perez-Payano, George Encarnacion
Clockwise from top left: Steffany Castillo-Candalari, Nelfy Ulerio, Jonathan Perez-Payano, George Encarnacion Photo Credit: Attorney General's Office

Authorities raided an Irvington apartment Tuesday that was used to prepare heroin for sale on the street, with doses stamped with “brand names” like Dunkin Donuts and American Greed, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.

Also on Tuesday, four people were arrested for their alleged involvement with the operation, which sold drugs believed to be responsible for 33 overdose deaths and more than 90 overdoses in total.

Numerous law enforcement agencies from across North Jersey assisted in the investigation that led to Tuesday’s raid on a second-floor apartment at 214 Eastern Parkway, where authorities found 70,000 doses of heroin as well as four kilos of heroin and fentanyl, Grewal said. The drugs have an estimated street value of over a half-million dollars.

Authorities also seized two guns, $165,000 in cash and packaging materials including hundreds of wax folds and ink stamps of the various “brands” the ring sold. At least 12 of those brands have been linked to 93 overdoses, inclduding fatal overdoses.

Arrested were three Newark residents -- George Encarnacion, 28; Jonathan Perez-Payano, 28; and Steffany Castillo-Candalari, 28 -- along with Nelfy Ulerio, 19, of Irvington.

Encarnacion, Perez-Payano and Ulerio face numerous drug charges, including maintaining a narcotics production facility. They were being held at the Essex County jail.

Castillo-Candalari has been charged with conspiracy, receiving stolen property and money laundering. She was released pending a court date.

Tuesday’s bust is part of a strategy focusing on individual heroin and fentanyl drug mills that sell products leading to several deaths. The investigation was funded in part with a federal $2.8 million grant.

“This is another victory for our Opioid Enforcement Task Force and another case where we undoubtedly saved lives by stopping countless doses of fentanyl and heroin from reaching drug users, including doses stamped with the same brand names as drugs linked to 33 deaths,” said Grewal.

The arrests were made in an ongoing investigation by the New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force and Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

They were assisted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Morris Plains police, Cliffside Park police, Nutley police, Harrison police, and Newark police. The New Jersey State Police recently established the Opioid Enforcement Task Force, designed to strategically target heroin and fentanyl sources of supply across the state.

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