- Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal
Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced
that three people were sentenced to state
prison today for their roles in a Newark-based
narcotics ring that distributed millions of
dollars a year in illegal prescription painkillers
such as OxyContin.
defendants sentenced today had previously
pleaded guilty to racketeering charges filed
as a result of Operation Pandora, an investigation
led by the New Jersey State Police and the
Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
investigation led to the arrest in January
2007 of the leader of the ring, Mohamed Hassanain,
43, of West Orange, and 19 other members.
Eighteen have pleaded guilty. Hassanain pleaded
guilty on July 31, while on trial, to racketeering
and money laundering. The state will recommend
that he be ordered to serve 18 years in prison
when he is sentenced.
Polanco, 30, of New York City, was sentenced
to 12 years in state prison today by Superior
Court Judge Michael J. Nelson in Essex County.
In pleading guilty to racketeering in May,
Polanco admitted that he served as a conduit
between Hassanain’s ring and a Bronx,
N.Y., ring that Hassanain’s ring supplied.
Nelson also sentenced two men who served as
runners, filling fraudulent prescriptions
at pharmacies and/or delivering narcotics
to members of the ring. He sentenced Woodrow
Newton, 48, of Newark, to 12 years in prison,
and Rick Terrell, 59, of Newark, to five years
was indicted on Aug. 2, 2007 along with 18
other defendants. 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 is awaiting sentencing and faces up to
15 years in prison. He forfeited $593,000
seized in his home and permanently forfeited
his New Jersey medical license.
pleading guilty, Hassanain admitted that between
July 2005 and January 2007, he directed a
narcotics ring that sold approximately 40,000
OxyContin and Percocet pills per week. Most
of the pills went to the distribution ring
based in Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx ring in turn
sold some of the drugs to a ring in the Boston
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.
The charges against Aly are pending. Prescriptions
were also filled at other pharmacies. Hassanain
allegedly ran the ring from his business,
Lyons Avenue Auto Sales on Clinton Avenue
in Newark, as well as his home.
other defendants who pleaded guilty to racketeering
are awaiting sentencing.
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.
General Milgram credited Detective Thomas
McEnroe and others within the State Police
Major Crime Unit and detectives in the Division
of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized
Crime Bureau North Squad. 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.