By Karen Zautyk
A Nutley man was among 20 defendants charged last week in the takedown of a Patersonbased narcotics network that allegedly distributed more than 1,000 oxycodone pills per week in northern New Jersey, Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced.
As of press time, however, the local man, identified as 34-year-old David Licata Jr., remained a fugitive, authorities said. Law enforcement was hunting him and four other suspects who were at large following the Aug. 1 sweep by officers from multiple agencies.
UPDATE: The Office of the N.J. Attorney General reports that suspect David Licata Jr. of Nutley turned himself in to the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office on the afternoon of Aug. 6. He is no longer a fugitive.
The alleged ringleader, Aurelio Gutierrez, 59, of Paterson, was arrested July 11 in an ongoing federal-state-local cooperative investigation called “Operation White Silk.”
Licata is among seven alleged dealers or “pill brokers” who bought oxycodone and other prescription narcotics from Gutierrez for distribution, authorities said. In some instances, they reportedly also supplied pills to Gutierrez.
The other six “brokers” — ranging in age from 33 to 58 — are from the Bronx, Paterson, Hackensack, Warren and Lafayette.
In addition, charges were filed against 12 reputed “run ners,” aged 31 to 61, who allegedly obtained oxycodone and other narcotics and sold them to Gutierrez. Ten of these defendants are from Paterson; the other two are from Hackensack and Lodi. Four of them are fugitives.
The arrestees were lodged in the Passaic County Jail on cash bails ranging from $50,000 to $150,000.
Bail for Gutierrez was set at $275,000 cash.
Gutierrez is charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree crime that carries a sentence of life in prison, with 25 years of parole ineligibility and a criminal fine of up to $750,000.
Licata and the other defendants are charged with seconddegree conspiracy to distribute CDS. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000.
“Operation White Silk” was launched in March by the N.J. the Division of Criminal Justice, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New Jersey Division, assisted by the State Police and the Paterson Police Department.
“Oxycodone pain pills are at the heart of an epidemic of opiate addiction that is killing too many young people in New Jersey, either directly through pill overdoses or by moving them on to the cheaper alternative of heroin, which is being sold on the streets at lethal purity levels,” said Hoffman in announcing the takedown.
Oxycodone is the generic form of the narcotic in Oxy- Contin and is contained in other painkillers such as Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen).
The ring allegedly distributed pills that typically sell for $5 to $30 apiece on the street.
Demand was so high that Gutierrez typically would dispose of all of the pills he acquired within 24 hours, authorities reported.
The complaints that were filed are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, Hoffman noted.
The charges will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment.
But “Operation White Silk” continues.
“The only way of truly reducing the amount of oxycodone on our streets is through comprehensive long-term investigations of this nature,” said Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik.