A Belleville man was among a slew of Jersey residents 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, who lives on Carmer Avenue in Belleville, plus Frank Smith III, 37, 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 Manhattan, and Michele Castillo, 43, of San Rafael, California, on charges of money laundering.
Joie Smith, 34, of Mahwah, was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled-dangerous substance and money laundering.
The arrests were the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the East Rutherford Police Department.
According to Musella:
On Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office’s Narcotic Task Force and the East Rutherford Police Department, initiated a narcotics investigation after a medical call at The Monarch Apartments, 100-120 Schindler Court, Apt. 429, East Rutherford, revealed Smith, Ulloa and Leonardomateo appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Wallace, the lessee of the apartment, came home while police were present. While inside the apartment providing medical attention to the occupants, officers say they observed that items in the apartment that were reportedly coated with an unknown powder.
As such, the Bergen County Hazmat Unit was called to the location to conduct field analysis on the powder, which was later determined to be fentanyl, according to Musella. The New Jersey State Police Hazmat Unit responded to assist.
Law enforcement obtained a court-authorized search warrant, which the BCPO says revealed a large-scale fentanyl-production facility in the apartment. Officers also reportedly 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 15 and 30 mgs, and Percocet; multiple cutting agents; numerous heroin glassine envelopes and approximately $12,000 in suspected drug proceeds.
Within hours of Smith’s arrest, surveillance units say they observed his wife, Joie, along with Castillo and Ochart, loading two vehicles with bags and other items from the Smiths’ Mahwah residence, at 44 Crocker Mansion Drive, before departing the Rio Vista neighborhood.
A pair of motor-vehicle stops and subsequent search warrants of the vehicles revealed the trio were in the process of moving approximately $325,000 in suspected drug proceeds from the Smith home.
The proceeds were seized by police along with paperwork showing Frank Smith had recently purchased a luxury yacht that was docked at the Alpine Boat Basin. Simultaneously, detectives from the BCPO’s Narcotic Task Force, the Mahwah Police Department, the East Rutherford Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office executed a court-authorized search warrant of the Mahwah residence, which allegedly yielded an additional several thousand suspected fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills, suspected raw fentanyl, suspected raw heroin, cutting agents and approximately $10,000 cash.
The street value of the narcotics and illicit items seized in the investigation is estimated at $1 million.
In addition to the money, detectives also seized five vehicles, designer jewelry, luxury watches and Smith’s 40-foot motor yacht, which are all pending forfeiture proceedings.
On Aug. 5, Frank Smith, Ulloa and Wallace were remanded to the Bergen County Jail, Hackensack, pending detention hearings Monday, Aug. 10.
Leonardomateo was also remanded to the Bergen County Jail pending a detention that was to occur Friday, Aug. 7.
Castillo and Ochart were released on their own recognizance pending a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court, Hackensack, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 8:30 a.m.
Joie Smith was released on her own recognizance, pending a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 8:30 a.m.
“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.
“Those agencies that assisted us in this investigation — East Rutherford Police Department, Mahwah Police Department, Bergen County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, New Jersey State Police Hazmat Unit and Bergen County Hazmat — deserve special recognition for the conducting this investigation in especially dangerous conditions.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.