TRENTON - Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that six defendants have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges for their roles in a Newark-based narcotics ring that distributed millions of dollars a year in illegal prescription painkillers such as OxyContin.
According to Director Gramiccioni, the following six defendants pleaded guilty yesterday to these charges before Superior Court Judge Michael J. Nelson in Essex County, and the state will recommend the listed sentences when they appear for sentencing on March 27:
- Enin Martin, 28, of East Orange; first-degree racketeering; up to 17 years in prison.
- Tereke M. Hammond, 32, of Newark; first-degree racketeering; up to 17 years in prison.
- Raul Cruz, 29, of the Bronx, N.Y.; first-degree racketeering; up to 12 years in prison.
- Rick Terrell, 58, of Newark; second-degree racketeering; up to seven years in prison.
- Kimyatta L. Jones, 29, of Newark; second-degree racketeering; up to seven years in prison.
- Tasheemah N. Tyson, 28, of Newark; second-degree racketeering; up to seven years in prison.
“These guilty pleas are a significant step forward in our prosecution of this Newark-based drug ring, which was responsible for putting thousands of dangerous pills per week onto the streets of New Jersey, New York and Boston,” said Attorney General Milgram. “We are preparing to proceed to trial against the remaining members of this multi-million dollar criminal enterprise.”
In pleading guilty, the defendants admitted they participated in the ring by acting as runners and filling fraudulent prescriptions at pharmacies. The pleas were taken by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorneys General Mark Ondris and Paul Salvatoriello.
On Aug. 2, 2007, the Division of Criminal Justice obtained a state grand jury indictment charging 19 alleged members of the Newark-based ring, including its alleged leader, Mohamed Hassanain, 43, of West Orange, with first degree-racketeering and other charges. Hassanain also was charged with being a leader of a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree charge that carries a sentence of life in prison. Some of the defendants, including Hassanain, face various other charges including second-degree drug and weapons offenses.
The charges resulted from an investigation by the State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Dr. Mario Comesanas, 53, of Livingston pleaded guilty in March 2007 to first-degree racketeering and second-degree distribution of narcotics for writing thousands of fraudulent prescriptions for the ring. He faces a state prison sentence of up to 15 years. He forfeited $593,000 seized in his home as proceeds of the fraudulent prescriptions, and permanently forfeited his license to practice medicine in New Jersey. His sentence is pending.
In pleading guilty, Comesanas admitted he went to Hassanain’s home on Edgar Road in West Orange to write thousands of fraudulent painkiller prescriptions. Hassanain’s cousin, pharmacist Ahmed F. “Felix”Aly, 33, of Union, is charged with knowingly filling the forged prescriptions at his pharmacy, RGN Pharmacy on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark. Hassanain, who sometimes uses the alias Mohamed Aly, allegedly ran the ring from his business, Lyons Avenue Auto Sales on Clinton Avenue in Newark, as well as his home. Those three men were arrested on Jan. 26, 2007, when warrants were issued for most of the defendants.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Pandora,” determined that the network sold 20,000 to 30,000 OxyContin and Percocet pills per week, with most going to a distribution ring based in the Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx ring in turn sold some of the drugs to a ring in the Boston area. Hassanain and his deputies allegedly used numerous runners to fill the prescriptions at various pharmacies using fraudulent identifications.
A mother and son previously pleaded guilty as runners for the ring. Stephanie “Sara” McLucas, 56, of Maplewood, and Jason Edwin Allen Jr., 29, of Newark, pleaded guilty in February 2008 to second-degree racketeering. The mother faces up to 12 years in prison, and the son, up to seven years. Their sentences also are pending.
A full list of the indicted defendants can be found in the Aug. 2, 2007 press release at the Attorney General’s Web site: www.njpublicsafety.com. The indictment is merely an accusation and the other defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Attorney General Milgram credited detectives in the State Police Major Crime Unit and investigators in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. She also credited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gerard P. McAleer, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the NY/NJ High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, and the New York State Police for assisting in the investigation.