TRENTON – The Division of Criminal Justice has obtained an indictment charging the alleged leader and 29 alleged members and associates of a violent Perth Amboy-based drug network linked to the Ñetas street gang with first-degree racketeering, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced Tuesday. The network allegedly trafficked heroin and crack cocaine on the street in Middlesex County and in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
The indictment stems from Operation New Era Taking Action, a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, Perth Amboy Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and N.J. Department of Corrections.
The 32-count state grand jury indictment, handed up in court Monday, charges the alleged leader of the network, Danni Rivera, 28, of Rahway, an alleged high-ranking member of the Ñetas, with the crime of leader of a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree offense that carries a sentence of life in state prison, including 25 years of parole ineligibility.
Rivera, who is being held on $1 million bail, is also charged with kidnapping, a first-degree offense that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, for allegedly ordering the kidnapping of a young man who was beaten, taken to a motel in Sayreville, and held at gunpoint in December 2009. Rivera was indicted previously in that kidnapping, but the earlier indictment is superseded by this one.
“We charge that Danni Rivera used violence and the threat of violence to exert control over his drug network as a local leader of the Ñetas,” said Chiesa. “The kidnapping alleged in this indictment demonstrates his willingness to resort to violence. Through cooperative, multi-agency investigations, we’re targeting the drug dealing and violence plaguing our urban centers.”
“We’ll continue to partner across jurisdictional lines to secure major indictments such as this one, which could potentially put these gang members and associates behind bars for a long time,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice.
It is alleged that Rivera, as a local leader of the Ñetas, exercised control and authority over the other members of the narcotics network. Rivera and seven other defendants face various second- or third-degree drug charges in connection with alleged drug sales or drugs seized during the investigation.
Two of the defendants, Damien Castro, 28, of Carteret, and Richard Orengo, 30, of Perth Amboy, are charged with robbery for allegedly shaking down a drug dealer who was competing with the Ñetas in Perth Amboy. A Perth Amboy detective allegedly witnessed the robbery on March 9, 2011, and the two men were arrested. Orengo and another defendant, Roy Remiggio, 33, of Keasbey, are charged with second-degree witness tampering for allegedly coercing the victim of the robbery into signing a statement denying that he was robbed.
Rivera and 14 co-defendants are also charged with conspiracy and money laundering in connection with a scheme to sell heroin to inmates in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. It is alleged that two inmates in the prison, William Suarez, 27, and Eligio Bueno, 30, both of whom are Ñetas serving sentences for murder, conspired with Rivera and others to take heroin orders from fellow inmates and have heroin smuggled to the customers inside the prison. They allegedly would direct the inmates to have money sent to the defendants outside the prison, for delivery to Rivera’s sister, Isis Rivera, 27, of South Amboy, or another intermediary.
In addition to the first-degree kidnapping charge, Rivera also faces second-degree charges of conspiracy and aggravated assault in connection with the alleged abduction. Three other men previously pleaded guilty in the kidnapping. David Santana, 22, of Perth Amboy, and Oswaldo Santillan Jr., 21, of Perth Amboy, each pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping. Under their plea agreements, each man faces a sentence of 10 years in state prison, 85 percent of which must be served without parole under the No Early Release Act. Hector Montoya-Garay, 23, of Perth Amboy, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal restraint and faces up to five years in prison.
The investigation revealed that the kidnapping victim, who was 18 at the time, had gotten into trouble with Rivera, and Rivera allegedly ordered the other three men to carry out the kidnapping. In pleading guilty, Santillan admitted that he and Santana ambushed the victim at a house in Perth Amboy on Dec. 5, 2009, forcing him into a van driven by Montoya-Garay. Santillan and Santana beat the victim inside the van and outside at a remote location. The victim suffered a broken nose, black eyes, cuts and other injuries. The three men then took the victim to a motel in Sayreville, where they held him at gunpoint and threatened to kill him. The victim escaped after Santillan and Santana departed, leaving Montoya-Garay to guard him.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.