4 local men — 2 from Harrison, 1 each from Kearny and Belleville — face life behind bars after fed drug bust, US Att’y says

Five men, including two from Harrison and one each from Kearny and Belleville, face up to life in prison having been arrested and charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl in connection with a scheme to move those drugs through the United States mail, Audrey Strauss, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, Matthew Modafferi, special agent in charge of the Northeast Area Field Office of the U.S. Postal Service, Officer of Inspector General and Philip R. Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced last week.

Following the unsealing of an indictment, Hugo Richard Villanueva Torres, 29, of Belleville; Daniel Ortiz, 41, of Harrison; Jose Luis Martinez Rosario, 44, of Harrison; Jayson Colon, 42, of Kearny and Luis Gamez, of Riverside, California were charged with participating the conspiracy.

Villanueva, Ortiz, Martinez and Colon were arrested early last week here in New Jersey and were presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses that same day. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.

Gamez was arrested March 7 in California and was presented before a federal magistrate judge in the Central District of California.

Of the indictments, Strauss said: “As alleged, the defendants are charged with trafficking large quantities of fentanyl and heroin. We thank our partners at HSI and USPS-OIG for their outstanding work in stopping the shipment of narcotics through the U.S. mail.”

Fitzhugh said: “These defendants allegedly operated a cross-country drug distribution network which placed profits above all else, including the safety of our communities. During this week’s operation, we arrested five members of this drug trafficking organization. More importantly, we seized over 6 kilograms of fentanyl and heroin, which contain numerous fatal doses of these dangerous drugs. Working with our law enforcement partners at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal OIG and the United States Attorney’s Office, SDNY, HSI will continue to protect the public from those who would exploit our communities for their own financial and personal gain.”

Bartlett said: “Using the U.S. Mail to facilitate the transportation of deadly fentanyl was one of many mistakes allegedly made by these subjects. Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will arrest and bring to justice anyone who breaks the sanctity of the trust placed in the U.S. Mail, no matter where they are found.”

As alleged in the indictment:

From at least in or about May 2020 up to and including in or about February 2021, the five men charged reportedly participated in a conspiracy to distribute kilograms of fentanyl and heroin. The conspirators transported kilogram-quantities of fentanyl and heroin, as well as narcotics proceeds, in packages shipped through the United States mail with the assistance of Ortiz, an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

All five men are each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl and one kilogram or more of heroin. That charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.

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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.