– Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that an Essex County man pleaded guilty today
to racketeering for his role in a Newark-based
ring that distributed millions of dollars
a year in illegal prescription painkillers
such as OxyContin.
to Division of Criminal Justice Director Deborah
L. Gramiccioni, Woodrow “Ali”
Newton, 47, of Newark, pleaded guilty to second-degree
racketeering and second-degree conspiracy
to distribute narcotics before Superior Court
Judge Michael J. Nelson in Essex County. He
admitted he acted as a runner, filling fraudulent
prescriptions. He faces up to 15 years in
state prison. Newton was on trial with the
alleged leader of the ring, Mohamed Hassanain,
43, of West Orange.
charges stem from an investigation by the
New Jersey State Police and Division of Criminal
Justice, assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration. Fifteen out of 20 defendants
charged in the case have entered guilty pleas.
case is being prosecuted 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.
were made in the investigation in January
2007, and the Division of Criminal Justice
obtained a state grand jury indictment on
Aug. 2, 2007 charging Hassanain and 18 other
members of the Newark-based ring. Prior to
the indictment, Dr. Mario Comesanas, 53, of
Livingston pleaded guilty to first-degree
racketeering and second-degree distribution
of narcotics for writing thousands of fraudulent
prescriptions for the ring. He faces up to
15 years in prison, forfeited $593,000 seized
in his home, and permanently forfeited his
New Jersey medical license.
allegedly ran the ring from his business,
Lyons Avenue Auto Sales on Clinton Avenue
in Newark, as well as his home.
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.
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.