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December 24, 09

NEWS / Six Indicted on Charges They Conspired to Distribute Large Quantities of Marijuana from Bergen Count


TRENTON ¨C Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that six people were indicted on charges they conspired to distribute large quantities of marijuana from Bergen County as part of an interstate marijuana distribution ring.

The charges stem from an investigation conducted by investigators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration based in Paterson, N.J., and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. It is alleged that the defendants were involved in the purchase and interstate transportation of large quantities of marijuana from sources in Arizona and elsewhere outside of New Jersey. They allegedly used a residence in the 400 block of Billington Road in Teaneck as a base of operations for distributing marijuana.

Approximately 275 pounds of marijuana were seized in New Jersey during the investigation, and $238,344 in cash was seized at the residence in Teaneck. The indictment was returned yesterday and handed up in court today.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, these five men were charged in a state grand jury indictment with first-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and second-degree conspiracy:

¡öJames E. Cotter, 45, of Hubert, North Carolina;
¡öJason W. Howard, 31, of Cogan Station, Pennsylvania;
¡öMichael R. McGarr, 26, of Montoursville, Pennsylvania;
¡öJustin J. Richardell, 32, of Tucson, Arizona; and
¡öEduardo Santiago, 42, of New York City;
A sixth man, Jesus Hernandez-Ortiz, 35, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., is charged with second-degree money laundering and second-degree conspiracy. Hernandez-Ortiz leased the house on Billington Road in Teaneck. In addition, Hernandez-Ortiz and Santiago are each charged with second-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and second-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park. All six defendants are also charged with fourth-degree possession of marijuana.

The first-degree charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison and a $500,000 fine. Second-degree charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine, while fourth-degree charges carry up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

All six men were arrested on March 9, 2009. The five men charged with first-degree possession of marijuana are charged in connection with the seizure that day of approximately 260 pounds of marijuana. The marijuana was found packed in nine plastic-wrapped ¡°bales¡± in the trunk of a Buick Rendezvous SUV that was stopped by investigators on Route 80.

McGarr was driving the Buick, and Cotter and Howard were driving other cars in convoy-like fashion with the Buick. Richardell had driven the Buick from the Teaneck residence to a hotel on Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, where he got out and McGarr got in. Santiago allegedly was involved in loading the drugs into the Buick at the Teaneck house.

Santiago and Hernandez-Ortiz were arrested that day in a Kia van, which was stopped as it left the Teaneck house. Investigators seized two bales containing approximately 15 pounds of marijuana that were on the back seat of the van. A search warrant was executed at the Teaneck residence on March 10, 2009, resulting in the seizure of $238,344 in U.S. currency, some of which was in a counting machine.

Deputy Attorney General David Noble of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau presented the case to the state grand jury.

The investigation was conducted by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Paterson Post of Duty working with Detective Toni Petreski of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, who was temporarily assigned to the DEA Paterson POD, Deputy Attorney General Noble, and Detective Terence McCabe of the Fort Lee Police Department, who is also assigned to the DEA Paterson POD.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be arraigned at a later date.

All of the defendants except Hernandez-Ortiz are being held in the Bergen County Jail in lieu of bail. Hernandez Ortiz is in the custody of federal authorities in Michigan.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases09/pr20091223b.html

 




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