TRENTON – The leader a Newark-based narcotics ring that distributed millions of dollars a year in illegal prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin pleaded guilty Friday, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced.
The guilty plea marks the conclusion of a nearly three-year investigation that resulted in 18 defendants being convicted and facing a total of 210 years in state prison. In addition, approximately $2.3 million in assets were seized as a result of the investigation and will be forfeited at the time of sentencing.
“The sheer magnitude of this ring was astounding,” Milgram said. “In disbanding the ring, the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice have taken millions of dollars worth of illegal prescription drug pills off of the streets and out of the hands of criminals.”
Mohamed Hassanain, 43, of West Orange, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Joseph Cassini in Essex County to racketeering and money laundering, both in the second-degree. Hassanain’s co-defendant, Terry A. Brooks, 33, of Newark, also pleaded guilty before Cassini to second-degree racketeering. The charges were contained in an Aug. 2, 2007 state grand jury indictment.
The charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorneys General Mark Ondris and Paul Salvatoriello.
In pleading guilty, Hassanain admitted that between July 2005 and January 2007, he orchestrated the narcotics ring that sold approximately 40,000 OxyContin and Percocet pills per week. Most of the pills went to a distribution ring based in Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx ring in turn sold some of the drugs to a ring in the Boston area.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Pandora,” determined that Hassanain and his deputies within the ring provided several hundred names a week to Dr. Mario Comensanas, 53, of Livingston, who was paid up to $100 per name to write a “set” of prescriptions, including 60 OxyContin pills, 90 Percocet pills and vitamins for patients that did not exist or whom he never saw.
Comensanas pleaded guilty on March 19, 2007 to first-degree racketeering and second-degree distribution of narcotics for writing thousands of fraudulent prescriptions for the ring. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
After receiving the fraudulent prescriptions, “runners,” including Brooks, within the ring would proceed to various pharmacies to fill the prescriptions. In exchange for cash, pharmacist Ahmed “Felix” Aly, 35, of Union, would knowingly fill multiple fraudulent prescriptions and return the narcotics to the runners. Aly’s case was severed from Hassanain’s trial and is currently pending trial.
Hassanain, who ran the ring from his home in West Orange and his business on Clinton Avenue in Newark, admitted that he maintained various “stash” houses around the Essex County area where he would accumulate tens of thousands of pills per week for wholesale distribution. At the “stash” houses, pills were packaged in bulk and individuals from the Bronx would come weekly to transport the narcotics and provide Hassanain with tens of thousands of dollars.
On Jan. 25, 2007, the Division of Criminal Justice executed arrest warrants at 10 locations and upon five vehicles utilized by the enterprise.
Consequently, more than 40,000 narcotics pills, approximately $650,000 in cash, approximately nine weapons, and thousands or prescriptions, both blank and executed, were recovered. The state placed liens against 14 parcels of real property allegedly acquired with the proceeds of the illegal enterprise.
Milgram credited Detectives Thomas McEnroe and others within the State Police Major Crime Unit and detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau – North Squad. She also credited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gerard P. McAleer, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the NY/NJ High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, and the New York State Police for assisting in the investigation.
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