ANOTHER CVP EXCLUSIVE: Four of 15 defendants charged in the takedown of a large-scale New Jersey heroin trafficking network two years ago are headed to trial in Hackensack in two months.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi said earlier this week that she is blocking out “basically the whole month of June” for Kyle Pittman, Seth Pittman, Anthony Robbins and Imier Green after they rejected plea offers.
The investigation that led to a 36-count indictment against the 15 defendants represents a new approach to fighting the spread of a drug that Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said plays a huge role in local burglaries, thefts and robberies.
It involved members of no fewer than 28 New Jersey law enforcement agencies at the local, county, state and federal levels, many of whom were part of a three-county multi-jurisdictional task force that stretched from Hackensack to Paterson to Trenton.
During the investigation and subsequent arrests, authorities seized more than 1,000 bricks of heroin that, if sold in individual bags, could fetch anywhere from $250,000 to $1.25 million dollars depending on how it is cut and distributed.
They also confiscated $110,000 in alleged drug proceeds that Molinelli said his office will seek a judge’s order to keep for law enforcement uses in Bergen.
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CLIFFVIEW PILOT broke the news the morning of May 2: Multi-agency heroin raid nets 113 arrests, 50,000 bags, $110,000 cash
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Along with those named in the indictment, authorities arrested nearly 100 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 for buying or having drugs on them when stopped. Molinelli then posted their mugshots or driver’s license photos online ( SEE: Bergen prosecutor: Multi-agency heroin raid nets 113 arrests, 50,000 bags, $110,000 cash ).
The prosecutor said a staggering number of heroin overdose deaths in Bergen County last year left him no choice but to change gears and go after both dealers and users — both within and outside the county ( SEE: Bergen prosecutor: ‘Whole new approach’ to fighting drugs yields sellers, buyers ).
The judge yesterday told the four defendants that because they were indicted in 2013, they are “moved to the top of the list because it’s the oldest case. So, unless you’re in a coma do not call me for an adjournment, under any circumstances.
“Any vacation plans, make it for after this trial,” she added, apparently speaking to the various defense attorneys who came to court with their clients.
Addressing Kyle “K” Pittman, who has a prior record and faces the most serious charges, DeAvila-Silebi said: “You understand your plea offer is 20 years with 72 months before you can be paroled?
“Do you want to meet with your attorney now, or do you want me to give a trial date?
“Your plea offer is for all of the counts in the indictment,” the judge explained, “But you have a first-degree charge based on the weight of the drugs you had, and that can easily convert to 25 or 30-plus years, if convicted.”
“I’m not taking no 20 years,” replied Pittman, who is charged in the indictment with having a defaced .22-caliber GSG-522 pistol and a large-capacity ammo magazine.
Seth Pittman, meawhile, rejected a 10-year deal from prosecutors.
Authorities have identified him as a major player, along with Kyle Pittman, Imier Green and Anthony Robbins.
Green is charged in the indictment with having a Springfield Armory USA XD9 handgun and a Glock 17 handgun — both stolen — and a large-capacity ammunition magazine.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor James Santulli asked DeAvila-Silebi to split the defendants into groups in the interests of managing the cases.
Although the attorneys have been appearing regularly before Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian for more than a year and a half, defendants have only appeared twice because of the large number of people involved.
Logistics in the case have been challenging, with some of the defendants in Bergen County Jail, others being held elsewhere and a few out on bail.
Not once has every defendant and attorney made it to court at the same time.
A fifth defendant, Zamier “Za” Gee, has until June 8 to determine whether to take take a plea or be tried alone. Gee, of Paterson, has been free since Sept. 11, 2013 after his bail was slashed to $75,000 from $750,000.
Also scheduled to come before the judge on June 8 are two Paterson men, Felix “Munch” Melendez and Christian “Unc” Chiuyare, who are both charged with being leaders of a narcotics network.
Chiuyare is named in seven counts and Melendez in 10 of the indictment, including one of having a defaced Smith & Wesson Model SW9V handgun and another for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Melendez, who was released from state prison in April 2012 after serving more than five years for drug and weapons charges, is also charged along with four others with being an “organizer / supervisor / financier or manager” of a drug network.
Two Paterson men, Steven “N.O.” Williams, who’s charged with conspiracy and with transporting more than $7,000 in drug proceeds, and Anthony “Baby D” Johnson, are due in court on June 8.
So are Andrea Hunter, Isiah Green, Jabreel Abdullah, Andrea L. Hunter, Alejandro Serrano, Gregory Hrebgenak Jr. and Aaron Smith.
The key moment in the investigation was whencrashed a drug deal between Melendez and the Pittmans in Paterson, Molinelli said at the time. They found 1,000 bricks (50,000 bags) of heroin stamped “Miami Heat,” “Grand Cru,” and “Frank Lucas,” and arrested Melendez, Chiuyare and the Pittmans. Detectives quickly executed six search warrants at various locations in Paterson and recovered more heroin and a handgun, the prosecutor said.
At the very same time, detectives from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, State Police, Trenton Police and the DEA executed eight search warrants at various locations. They seized three guns, along with heroin stamped “9½ plus” and “Victoria’s Secret.”
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