A Dominican national was extradited to the United States over the weekend for his alleged role in a drug trafficking organization responsible for over 16 kilograms of heroin that were seized in New Jersey and New York.
Wellington Luna De La Cruz, a/k/a “Orlando Luna Cruz,” a/k/a “Luis Echevarria,” a/k/a “El Mofle,” 40, is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin.
De La Cruz appeared Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court and was detained.
According to U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and documents filed in this and related cases, since January 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been investigating a drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in New Jersey, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and elsewhere.
The investigation revealed that De La Cruz is an alleged narcotics trafficker and high-ranking member of the DTO.
The narcotics were generally imported from Mexico and transported via truck to the New Jersey and New York areas.
De La Cruz allegedly instructed certain DTO members to receive the shipments, deliver payment to the truck drivers or other suppliers, and then distribute specified amounts of narcotics to other members of the DTO.
The DTO has been linked to several multiple-kilogram seizures of heroin, including two kilograms of heroin seized in New York in March 2015; four kilograms of heroin seized on Route 80 near Saddle Brook, New Jersey, in November 2015; and 10 kilograms of heroin seized in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in January 2017.
If convicted, De La Cruz faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and a fine of $10 million per count.
This case is being conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
Fitzpatrick credited special agents with the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson, and officers with the N.J. State Police, Trafficking North Unit, under the direction of Col. Rick Fuentes, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Wangenheim of the OCDETF Narcotics Unit in Newark.
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