TRENTON – A 53-year-old Metuchen man was one of four suspects indicted today on first-degree conspiracy, narcotics and money laundering charges in connection with an alleged drug trafficking network in Bergen County that was dismantled last year when the New Jersey State Police executed search warrants at a warehouse in Metuchen and seized 40 kilos of cocaine and $1.1 million in cash, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced. The cocaine seized in the raid had a street value of $1.4 million or more.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging the following four defendants with two counts of conspiracy (1st and 2nd degree), possession of cocaine with intent to distribute (1st degree), possession of cocaine (3rd degree), and money laundering (1st degree):
- Cesar E. Perez, 53, of Metuchen
- Divanis A. Mendoza, 35, of New York, N.Y.,
- Carlos R. Marroquin, 51, of Los Angeles, Calif., and
- Juan C. Roque, 30, of Los Angeles, Calif.
Perez and Mendoza are also charged with third-degree money laundering. The charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New York/New Jersey Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Metuchen Police Department.
“As evidenced by the 40 kilos of cocaine and more than $1 million in cash seized by the State Police, these defendants were allegedly trafficking in millions of dollars in narcotics, using a warehouse in Metuchen as a hub for shipments,” said Chiesa. “The success of this type of investigation and interdiction keeps large quantities of drugs off of our streets, and could send these alleged drug dealers to prison for a very long time.”
“The Division of Criminal Justice will continue to partner with the State Police to dismantle major drug trafficking operations and aggressively prosecute those who run these criminal enterprises,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These four men would face 10 to 20 years in state prison if convicted of the charges in this indictment.”
“The hidden compartments in four of the vehicles seized shows that this was a sophisticated criminal enterprise,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I would like to congratulate the entire team responsible for the takedown of this operation.”
As a result of the investigation, State Police detectives identified a warehouse at 335 High Street in Metuchen which the four men were allegedly using as a shipping terminal for large loads of narcotics arriving in commercial vehicles. On July 24, 2012, detectives were conducting surveillance and observed a Freightliner tractor enter the warehouse through a bay door, which closed behind the truck. When the Freightliner began to back out of the bay about half an hour later, detectives moved in, identified themselves and secured the site. All four defendants were allegedly at the warehouse.
The State Police and Division of Criminal Justice obtained search warrants for the Freightliner and five other vehicles at the location. State Police detectives allegedly found 33 bundles of cellophane-wrapped U.S. currency totaling approximately $1.1 million concealed within a false fuel tank of the Freightliner. They allegedly seized 20 kilograms of cocaine from an electronically activated hidden compartment in the rear of a silver Saturn Vue, and an additional 20 kilos of cocaine from a similar compartment in the rear of a black Saturn Vue. The search of a Ford Excursion revealed a hidden compartment that was empty.
The four defendants were arrested at that time and lodged in the Bergen County Jail, with bail for each man set at $250,000. They remain in jail.
Deputy Attorney General Philip J. Mogavero presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. The investigation was led by the New Jersey State Police Drug Trafficking North Unit. Attorney General Chiesa thanked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New York/New Jersey Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Metuchen Police Department for their valuable assistance.
The first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000, while the second-degree conspiracy charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The third-degree drug charge carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and a $35,000 fine.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County. It was assigned to Bergen County, where the defendants will be arraigned at a later date. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.