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7 charged in Edgewater-based high-grade pot ring

Daily Voice
Daily Voice Photo Credit: Daily Voice

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Seven men were indicted on drug and weapons charges in connection with a ring that authorities said trafficked $4 million worth of high-grade marijuana from California’s “Emerald Triangle” to destinations that included the same luxury Edgewater high-rise where a $2 million home invasion occurred last month.

Those charged include Danny  Saleh, the accused ringleader, and Matthew P. Martin, an alleged associate reportedly known as the “Federali” – in part, because of a tinted-windowed vehicle with law enforcement license plates that investigators said he drove.

Both live in the St. Moritz, an Edgewater high-rise built by developer Fred Daibes, who was the victim of an overnight home invasion there on Nov. 26 ( SEE: Bail remains at $1M each for 2 in Edgewater luxury high-rise home invasion robbery ).

A third man, ex-con Richard Lozado of Old Bridge, is charged with four separate illegal gun possession counts in the 23-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Hackensack late last week. Identified as a major customer is Lee Aviles Jr., of New Milford, who the indictment charges with drug and weapons offenses.

The defendants were arrested in a series of spring 2012 raids led by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.

Investigators seized six handguns — two that were reported stolen — as well as vehicles that include a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Mercedes Benz ( photos, above ), $250,000 in cash and designer watches, an unspecified amount of pot and two ounces of cocaine.

U.S. Postal Inspectors also intercepted 100 pounds of high-grade marijuana with a street value of $400,000, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said following the arrests.

Martin and Saleh traveled every other month to “the Emerald Triangle,” a northern California region that produces the most medical marijuana in the country and has thick forests where illegal pot is grown in Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties, Molinelli said.

There, they met with suppliers, packaged and masked the high-grade pot and overnight-mailed it to Edgewater, Linden, Rahway and Brooklyn, the prosecutor said.

Investigators believe they shipped nearly 1,000 pounds of marijuana cross-country to themselves in the 3½ months before their arrests, he said.

Both kept St. Moritz apartments that each rented for $5,000 a month ( photo, above ) and used a local banker to convert huge bundles of cash to larger bills to reduce the weight and bulk through airports, Molinelli said.

Saleh and Martin are charged in the indictment with conspiring to possess more than 25 pounds of marijuana in Edgewater and Union County with the intent to distribute it.

In addition, Martin, 45 ( mugshots above, middle right ), is charged with distributing more than an ounce of cocaine in Englewood and transporting $84,020 in alleged drug money. Saleh, 36 (top mugshot), is charged with transporting $159,000 in drug money.

Lozado, a 38-year-old convicted felon ( mugshots, middle left ), is charged with the Englewood cocaine count, along with illegally possessing a FIE .25 caliber ACP handgun, a 9mm Glock handgun, a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson and a .25 caliber Lorcin handgun – as well as carrying $7,640 in drug money.

Aviles, 33 ( bottom right ), is charged with illegally carrying a .40 mm Glock handgun, a Beretta model 92FS and hollow-nose bullets, as well as carrying $17,785 in alleged drug money and a small amount of pot.

The indictment also charges two other men, Kevin Graynor and Joseph P. Forman, with having the two ounces of cocaine for sale at the March 2012 buy at a Palisades Avenue restaurant in Englewood.

Saleh posted $250,000 bail and was released within hours of his arrest, records show. Martin, who records show filed for bankruptcy in 2011, posted his $250,000 bail after spending five days in the Bergen County Jail.

Lozado also posted his $125,000 bail five days later, according to jail records. Aviles was freed on $125,000 bail without hours of his arrest.

Also arrested during the raids but not named in the indictment was 46-year-old Marcanton “Marc” Macri, a onetime North Bergen municipal prosecutor and former law partner of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.  Authorities initially announced that Macri was released on $50,000 bail, posted hours after he was charged with three counts of money laundering and financial facilitation.

Participating in the massive investigation and takedown were:

  • The Bergen County Police Department;
  • The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Police departments from Edgewater, Cliffside Park, New Milford, Linden, Old Bridge and Rahway;
  • The Union and Middlesex County prosecutor’s offices;
  • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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