BEHIND THE STORY: Location isn’t important only in real estate: State indictments were returned today against four men in a multi-million-dollar drug ring that authorities said relied on a Middlesex County warehouse and Hackensack apartment that both provided easy cover and quick access to major highways.
All four defendants have been held on high bails in the Bergen County jail since last July, when detectives from the State Police Drug Trafficking North Unit raided a shipping terminal in Middlesex County.
The investigators said they found 33 bundles of cellophane-wrapped U.S. currency totaling approximately $1.1 million concealed within a false fuel tank of a 2001 Freightliner tractor that they watched pull into the terminal.
Checking other vehicles, they found 20 kilograms of cocaine each stashed in electronically-activated hidden compartments of two Saturn Vues, the indictment returned in Trenton says.
The search of a Ford Excursion revealed another “trap” that was empty, it says.
Investigators said they also “tossed” a Gardner Place apartment in Hackensack where two of the men stayed, producing $30,000 in cash.
If you don’t know where Gardner Place is — you’re in the majority.
A single block, it’s just off Liberty Avenue in Hackensack, between Hudson Street and the Shop-Rite shopping plaza on River Road — two minutes from either Route 80 or Route 46. Eventually turning into Moonachie Road, it feeds into Routes 21 and 3, which lead directly to the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 17.
The Metuchen warehouse has a similar advantage, positioned minutes from a major New Jersey crossroads that includes the Turnpike, the Parkway, Routes 1 and 9, 25, 287 and 440.
“This was a sophisticated criminal enterprise,” State Police Supt. Col Rick Fuentes said.
Chiesa’s Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained the indictment, which names:
- Carlos Reae Marroquin, 51, of Los Angeles, Calif., a Salvadoran citizen and central figure in the case, who was being held on $300,000 bail;
- Cesar Elizer Perez, 53, a native of the Dominican Republic who kept a Metuchen address. He’s being held on $200,000 bail;
- Divanis Andres Mendoza, 35, another Dominican Republic native who lived on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx and was also being held on $200,000 bail;
- Juan Carlos Roque, 30, a 6-foot, 245-pound Salvadoran citizen who lived with Marroquin in L.A.
MUGSHOTS COURTESY OF NJSP (from left): Cesar Perez, Carlos Marroquin, Divanis Mendoza, Juan Roque
The INS has put a detainer on Roque, who is being held on $250,000 bail — meaning he’ll likely face a deportation hearing once this case is disposed of.
Roque, Marroquin and Mendoza are charged with two counts of first-degree manufacturing or distributing drugs, along with possession of drugs and “property from criminal activity.”
Perez was charged with conspiracy, in addition to one count of manufacturing/distributing and the other two other charges.
He and Perez are also charged with third-degree money laundering.
The sentencing range for convictions on the charges they face range from 10 to 20 years in state prison. Arraignments will be held in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Chiesa cited assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York/New Jersey Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Metuchen Police Department. Deputy Attorney General Philip J. Mogavero presented the case to the state grand jury, he said.