TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that 10 individuals, including the alleged ringleader, were indicted today for allegedly operating a Paterson-based drug ring that illegally distributed over one thousand pills per week of the highly addictive opiate painkiller oxycodone. Ten other defendants previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging alleged ringleader Aurelio Gutierrez, 61, of Paterson, aka “Blanquito,” and nine alleged co-conspirators with second-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) and other second- and third-degree drug charges. Gutierrez also faces a first-degree charge of promoting organized street crime, which carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, to be served consecutive to the sentence for any underlying offense.
The indictment stems from “Operation White Silk,” a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, conducted with assistance from the New Jersey State Police and Paterson Police Department. Gutierrez and co-defendant Daniel Blanco, 48, of the Bronx, N.Y., were arrested on Broadway in Paterson on July 12, 2013, after Gutierrez allegedly sold Blanco 110 oxycodone pills. Investigators executed search warrants that day and seized 532 oxycodone pills from Gutierrez’s vehicle and his home on East 17th Street. Most of the other defendants were arrested during a sweep on Aug. 1, 2013.
“Gutierrez and his co-conspirators were allegedly peddling addiction and death in North Jersey in the form of thousands of oxycodone pills per month,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “These highly addictive pain pills are causing escalating overdose deaths across New Jersey and luring young people to the cheaper and even more lethal alternative of heroin. With operations such as this one, we are attacking the opiate crisis in New Jersey at its source.”
“We’re combating the problem of opiate addiction on all fronts, aggressively investigating and prosecuting heroin and prescription pill rings, while also targeting doctors and pharmacists who illegally make these opiate pills available for abuse,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “With high-dose 30 milligram oxycodone pills known as ‘blues’ selling for up to $30 per pill, there is a strong financial incentive for those who earn illicit profits by diverting and dealing these drugs. But we’re determined to provide a powerful disincentive in the form of prison sentences.”
“It is essential that law enforcement continue to work together to eliminate narcotic distribution networks of this nature and send those involved in these schemes to prison. I want to commend the Attorney General’s Office, DEA, the Officers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and all members of law enforcement who participated in ‘Operation White Silk.’ The only way of truly reducing the amount of oxycodone on our streets is through comprehensive long-term investigations and prosecutions of this nature,” said Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik.
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division said, “Law enforcement has dealt another blow to this drug trafficking organization. The illegal use of these highly addictive opiates can be just as dangerous as using heroin. We will continue to pursue these pill pushers as diligently as we do all drug traffickers.”
Gutierrez allegedly was the organizer and financier of the drug ring, which distributed more than 1,000 oxycodone pills per week to customers from all over northern New Jersey. It is alleged that demand was so high that Gutierrez typically would dispose of all of the pills he acquired within 24 hours. Oxycodone is the generic form of the narcotic in OxyContin and is the narcotic contained in other painkillers such as Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen). The ring allegedly distributed high-dose “blues,” blue pills containing 30 milligrams of oxycodone, and “bananas,” oblong yellow Percocet pills containing 10 milligrams of oxycodone, among other pills. A “blue” typically sells for $10 to $30 on the street, while a “banana” sells for $5 to $8.
Gutierrez allegedly used numerous people, known as “runners,” to obtain oxycodone pills and other prescription narcotics such as the anti-anxiety medication Xanax for further illegal distribution. The runners used a variety of means to obtain the prescription pills, including buying pills from low-income residents of Paterson who had legitimate prescriptions, obtaining fraudulent prescriptions which they filled at pharmacies, and using their own prescriptions for personal medical conditions.
Gutierrez allegedly controlled and directed the activities of the runners. He allegedly paid the runners enough for them to make a profit, reselling the pills at a substantial markup to other dealers. Dealers or “pill brokers” from all over northern New Jersey allegedly came to Gutierrez in order to purchase prescription pills, primarily oxycodone.
Deputy Attorney General Ray Mateo presented the case to the state grand jury. The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau by Detective Kevin Weinkauff, who was lead detective, Deputy Attorney General Mateo, and North Squad Detectives Louis Renshaw, Travis Johnson, Toni Petreski, Miguel Rodriguez and Luis Cruz, under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue, Sgt. Ho Chul Shin, former Deputy Chief of Detectives Chuck Foley, Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa-Yfantis, who is Bureau Chief, and Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. The investigation was conducted for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office by Detective Stephan Lantigua, Detective Eric Fajardo, and Detective Johnnie Ramos, under the supervision of the Director of the Bureau of Narcotics Mario Recinos and Detective Sgt. Marco Catania. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked all of the members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division who conducted the investigation. He also thanked the New Jersey State Police Special Investigations Section and the Paterson Police Department for their valuable assistance.
Ten of the 20 defendants initially charged in Operation White Silk, all lower-level ring members, pleaded guilty previously. These six defendants, all Paterson residents unless otherwise indicated, pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to distribute CDS and are awaiting sentencing or were admitted to the Drug Court program: Robert Ayala, 56; Keith Bye, 52, of Hackensack; Thomas Lamera, 59, of Warren; David Reames, 53; Antoine Watkins, 32; and Daniel Maldonado, 65. These four defendants, all of Paterson, pleaded guilty to third-degree conspiracy to distribute CDS and are awaiting sentencing: Maria Centano, 49; William Hernandez, 40; Omar Gonzalez, 43; and Nilda Ortiz, 62.
The following is a full list of the 10 defendants indicted today:
- Aurelio Gutierrez, 61, of Paterson.
These seven individuals allegedly were dealers or “pill brokers” who bought oxycodone pills and other prescription narcotics from Gutierrez for distribution in northern New Jersey. In some instances, they supplied pills to Gutierrez.
- Daniel Blanco, 48, of the Bronx, N.Y., arrested with Gutierrez,
- David Licata, Jr., 35, formerly of Nutley,
- Marcos Moya, 34, of Paterson,
- Jason Wagoner, 36, of Lafayette, and
These 12 individuals allegedly were “runners” who obtained oxycodone pills and other prescription narcotics and sold them to Gutierrez.
- Shakera Brown, 54, of Paterson,
- Dwight Nero, 59, of Paterson,
- John Mosley, 50, of Hackensack,
- Larry Garrett, 51, of Lodi,
- Carmen Shannon, 46, of Paterson.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of the indictment is posted with this press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Passaic County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.