PATERSON, N.J. -- Nine members of a Paterson-based major cocaine supply network were indicted following a joint investigation that involved the Passaic County Sheriff's Office and State Police, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators seized nearly 18 pounds of cocaine, a small quantity of heroin, 82 pills containing fentanyl, three handguns and more than $76,000 in drug proceeds during what was called “Operation Stillwater,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
The top suppliers in the network are all from Paterson, New Jersey's third-largest city, Grewal said:
- Jose Encarnacion, 35, was the primary supplier, buying the cocaine in New York City and then providing it to his associates;
- Jose Encarnacion, Adrian Mena-Acevedo, 25, "obtained large quantities of cocaine from Encarnacion [that] he distributed to other suppliers in the network;
- Luis Peguero-Nin, 27, did the same as Mena-Acevedo.
Peguero-Nin, a purported member of the Trinitarios, or 3NI, street gang, supplied cocaine to another alleged Trinitario, Jeffrey Jaquez, 27, of Passaic, who, in turn, employed street-level dealers.
"Rather than just locking up street-level dealers or low-level members of this network, we cut deep into the supply line, which is the best way to stop the flow of these destructive drugs into our communities," Grewal said.
"We also seized evidence that defendants were dealing heroin and the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl,” he added.
“The guns that were seized in this investigation and the alleged gang affiliations that were uncovered further illustrate the danger posed to the Paterson community by the activities of this criminal syndicate,” the attorney general said.
Also named in the indictment were Mena-Acevedo's live-in girlfriend, Emily Aracena-Freijomil, 24, and Juan Duran, 23, both of Paterson.
They cut, packaged and sold the drug under his direction, the indictment charges.
The indictment also charges two defendants with working for Peguero-Nin: Chamil Polanco, 24 also of Paterson, and a second man known by the nickname “Gingo” who remains unidentified.
The trio cut and packaged the cocaine for sale at an apartment they shared on Pearl Street, Grewal said.
Investigators executing a search warrant there last December seized three handguns, an illegal large-capacity magazine, hollow-point bullets, other ammunition, a small quantity of cocaine, 82 pills containing fentanyl and heroin in various stages of packaging, the attorney general said.
The final defendant, 37-year-old Juan Ruiz-Montano of the Bronx, worked with Encarnacion to distribute the cocaine, Grewal said.
Authorities who stopped his SUV after he left Encarnacion’s apartment the say of the search said they found six kilos of cocaine, a scale, and $4,500 in a hidden compartment of the vehicle.
All are charged with a variety of offenses involving drugs, weapons and money laundering.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Sgt. Patrick J. Sole and Detective Russell Kingsland were the case detectives.
Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Trenton assigned the case to Passaic County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment, Grewal said. They remained free until then.
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