Source: The Observer Online
New Jersey residents were arrested and charged in connection with a massive pill-making operation out of East Rutherford and Mahwah, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella announced.
Raymond Ulloa, 30, of Belleville; Frank Smith III, 37, and Joie Smith, 34, of Mahwah; Sandy Leonardomateo, 24, of Elizabeth; and Donald Wallace, 25, of Newark were all charged with maintaining a controlled-dangerous substance production facility. Also arrested were Yaritza Ochart, 39, of New York City; and Michele Castillo, 43, of San Rafael, California.
According to Musella, detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (BCPO) Narcotic Task Force and the East Rutherford Police Department initiated a narcotics investigation after a medical call at Wallace’s apartment in East Rutherford, which was occupied by Frank Smith, Ulloa and Leonardomateo.
While providing medical attention to the occupants, officers say they observed that items in the apartment that were reportedly coated with an unknown powder. The Bergen County Hazmat Unit was called to the location to conduct field analysis on the powder, which was later determined to be fentanyl. A court-authorized search revealed a large-scale fentanyl production facility in the apartment.
Officers discovered a pill press in which raw fentanyl and cutting agents were allegedly being used to produce pills that replicate commonly abused opioids. Police also reportedly found thousands of fentanyl-laced pills disguised as oxycodone and Percocet; multiple cutting agents; numerous heroin glassine envelopes and approximately $12,000 cash in suspected drug proceeds.
Within hours of Frank Smith’s arrest, Joie Smith, Castillo and Ochart were observed by police loading two vehicles with bags and other items from the Smiths’ Mahwah residence. Motor vehicle stops and subsequent search warrants revealed that the trio were in the process of moving approximately $325,000 in suspected drug proceeds from the Smith home.
The street value of the narcotics and illicit items seized in the investigation is estimated at $1 million. “Counterfeit pills like those seized in this investigation have contributed to a surge of overdoses throughout the Tri-State Area in recent months,” Musella said.
“We are proud of the work of our Narcotic Task Force and the agencies who assisted in this investigation for dismantling this drug-production facility and ultimately saving countless lives.”