– Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that six people were indicted on charges they
conspired to distribute large quantities of
marijuana from Bergen County as part of an
interstate marijuana distribution ring.
charges stem from an investigation conducted
by investigators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration based in Paterson, N.J., and
the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. It is
alleged that the defendants were involved
in the purchase and interstate transportation
of large quantities of marijuana from sources
in Arizona and elsewhere outside of New Jersey.
They allegedly used a residence in the 400
block of Billington Road in Teaneck as a base
of operations for distributing marijuana.
275 pounds of marijuana were seized in New
Jersey during the investigation, and $238,344
in cash was seized at the residence in Teaneck.
The indictment was returned yesterday and
handed up in court today.
to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni,
these five men were charged in a state grand
jury indictment with first-degree possession
of marijuana with intent to distribute and
James E. Cotter, 45, of
Hubert, North Carolina;
Jason W. Howard,
31, of Cogan Station, Pennsylvania;
Michael R. McGarr, 26,
of Montoursville, Pennsylvania;
Justin J. Richardell, 32,
of Tucson, Arizona; and
Eduardo Santiago, 42, of
New York City;
sixth man, Jesus Hernandez-Ortiz, 35, of Mount
Vernon, N.Y., is charged with second-degree
money laundering and second-degree conspiracy.
Hernandez-Ortiz leased the house on Billington
Road in Teaneck. In addition, Hernandez-Ortiz
and Santiago are each charged with second-degree
possession of marijuana with intent to distribute
and second-degree possession of marijuana
with intent to distribute within 500 feet
of a public park. All six defendants are also
charged with fourth-degree possession of marijuana.
first-degree charge carries a maximum sentence
of 20 years in state prison and a $500,000
fine. Second-degree charges carry a maximum
sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000
fine, while fourth-degree charges carry up
to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
six men were arrested on March 9, 2009. The
five men charged with first-degree possession
of marijuana are charged in connection with
the seizure that day of approximately 260
pounds of marijuana. The marijuana was found
packed in nine plastic-wrapped “bales”
in the trunk of a Buick Rendezvous SUV that
was stopped by investigators on Route 80.
was driving the Buick, and Cotter and Howard
were driving other cars in convoy-like fashion
with the Buick. Richardell had driven the
Buick from the Teaneck residence to a hotel
on Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, where he
got out and McGarr got in. Santiago allegedly
was involved in loading the drugs into the
Buick at the Teaneck house.
and Hernandez-Ortiz were arrested that day
in a Kia van, which was stopped as it left
the Teaneck house. Investigators seized two
bales containing approximately 15 pounds of
marijuana that were on the back seat of the
van. A search warrant was executed at the
Teaneck residence on March 10, 2009, resulting
in the seizure of $238,344 in U.S. currency,
some of which was in a counting machine.
Attorney General David Noble of the Division
of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized
Crime Bureau presented the case to the state
investigation was conducted by agents of the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Paterson
Post of Duty working with Detective Toni Petreski
of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs
& Organized Crime Bureau, who was temporarily
assigned to the DEA Paterson POD, Deputy Attorney
General Noble, and Detective Terence McCabe
of the Fort Lee Police Department, who is
also assigned to the DEA Paterson POD.
indictment is merely an accusation and the
defendants are presumed innocent until proven
indictment was handed up to Superior Court
Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County,
who assigned the case to Bergen County, where
the defendants will be arraigned at a later
of the defendants except Hernandez-Ortiz are
being held in the Bergen County Jail in lieu
of bail. Hernandez Ortiz is in the custody
of federal authorities in Michigan.