TRENTON – An Essex County man pleaded guilty today to leading a Newark-based narcotics ring that distributed millions of dollars a year in illegal prescription painkillers, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.
Mohamed Hassanain, 46, of West Orange, pleaded guilty to second-degree charges of racketeering and distribution of narcotics before Superior Court Judge Joseph C. Cassini III in Essex County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Hassanain be sentenced to 15 years in state prison. Hassanain previously pleaded guilty in 2009 to racketeering and money laundering, both in the second-degree, but the court allowed him to withdraw that plea based on his claim that he was under the influence of narcotics when he entered it. Cassini scheduled Hassanain to be sentenced on the new plea on July 23.
In pleading guilty, Hassanain admitted that from July 2005 to January 2007, he led a narcotics ring that sold approximately 40,000 OxyContin and Percocet pills per week, mostly to a distribution ring based in the Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx ring in turn sold some of the drugs to a ring in the Boston area.
Hassanain and 18 other alleged members of his ring were charged in an Aug. 2, 2007 state grand jury indictment that stemmed from “Operation Pandora,” an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. All but two of the defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to substantial prison terms or are facing prison terms upon sentencing.
The investigation determined that Hassanain and his deputies within the ring provided several hundred names a week to Dr. Mario Comensanas, 56, 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 who did not exist or who were never seen by the doctor. Comesanas was sentenced to 15 years in prison on May 26, 2010 after pleading guilty to first-degree racketeering and second-degree distribution of narcotics.
Runners would take the fraudulent prescriptions to various pharmacies to have them filled. In exchange for cash, Hassanain’s cousin, pharmacist Ahmed F. “Felix” Aly, 38, of Union, knowingly filled the forged prescriptions at his pharmacy, RGN Pharmacy on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark. Aly pleaded guilty to racketeering on Oct. 30, 2009 and is awaiting sentencing.
Hassanain ran the ring from his home in West Orange and his business on Clinton Avenue in Newark. He maintained various “stash” houses where he would accumulate thousands of pills per week for wholesale distribution. The pills were packaged in bulk, and individuals from the Bronx would come weekly to purchase them from Hassanain for tens of thousands of dollars.
On Jan. 25, 2007, the investigating agencies arrested most of the ring members and executed search warrants at 10 locations and upon five vehicles utilized by the enterprise. More than 40,000 narcotics pills, about $675,000 in cash, nine weapons, and thousands of prescriptions, both blank and executed, were recovered.
Under the plea agreement, Hassanain must forfeit 11 parcels of real property he owns in Essex County, worth over $1 million in total, and a Mercedes S-550, all of which were seized in the investigation as proceeds of the criminal enterprise. He forfeited any claim to the cash seized during the investigation.
Chiesa credited Detective Thomas McEnroe and others within the State Police Major Crime and Intelligence Units and detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau North Squad for the investigation. He also credited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, 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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