|TRENTON - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a Monmouth County man pleaded guilty today to participating in a scheme in which a state corrections officer, a leader of the Nine Trey Gangster set of the Bloods, and members of the Lucchese organized crime family smuggled drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.
Dwayne Spears, 33, of Neptune, pleaded guilty today to a charge of second-degree racketeering before Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morris County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Spears be sentenced to five years in state prison. The guilty plea stems from Operation Heat, an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau that led to the arrest and indictment of those involved in the smuggling scheme as well as numerous members of the New York-based Lucchese organized crime family. As a condition of the plea agreement, Spears must cooperate fully and provide truthful testimony in the ongoing prosecution of the other defendants.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Bureau Chief, took the guilty plea. Spears is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 3.
As a result of Operation Heat, the Division of Criminal Justice indicted two ruling members of the Lucchese crime family and 32 other members and associates, including the alleged current and former top New Jersey capos, Ralph V. Perna and Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., on first-degree charges of racketeering and predicate offenses on May 14, 2010. The indictment charges that the Lucchese defendants ran a gambling operation that transacted approximately $2.2 billion in wagers on sporting events in 15 months, using a website, toll-free phone numbers, and an offshore wire room, and that they relied on extortion and violence to collect debts. The charges against most of the defendants are pending, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved Spears’ brother, inmate Edwin B. Spears, 38, and a corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison, Michael T. Bruinton, 48, of Ringoes. It is charged that Edwin Spears, who holds a leadership position as a “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters, formed an alliance in the smuggling operation with Joseph M. Perna, 42, of Wyckoff, a member of the Lucchese crime family, and Michael A. Cetta, 45, of Wyckoff, a Bonnano crime family associate linked to the Lucchese crime family through marriage. Perna and Cetta were also charged in connection with the Lucchese family gambling operations.
In pleading guilty, Dwayne Spears admitted that he received money from Cetta to acquire contraband including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and pre-paid cell phones. Dwayne Spears admitted he gave the contraband to Bruinton to smuggle into East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge. The drugs and cell phones were allegedly distributed to inmates who had previously placed orders through Edwin Spears. Cell phones are prohibited in prison. It is charged that the purchasers paid by sending money orders or checks to individuals including Francine Hightower, 54, who previously pleaded guilty, and Kristen Gilliam, 29, of Farmingdale, who delivered the proceeds to Cetta to “re-invest” in the smuggling scheme.
The charges against Bruinton, Edwin Spears, Joseph Perna, Cetta and Gilliam remain pending, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Eliades, Deputy Attorney General Romanyshyn, and Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa-Yfantis have prosecuted the case. The lead detectives for Operation Heat were Lt. Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole, assisted by Detective Audrey Young, Sgt. Ho Chul Shin, Sgt. Brian Bruton, Detective Mario Estrada, Detective Richard DaSilva, Sgt. Noelle Holl, former Detective John Delesio, former Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney, and Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation. Chief of Detectives Paul Morris directed the investigation. Many other investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau provided assistance. The New Jersey State Police also assisted in the investigation.