TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that a drug dealer who was arrested by the Division of Criminal Justice with $1.2 million in drug money in the trunk of his car was sentenced to state prison today on a money laundering charge. It was one of the largest cash seizures in New Jersey law enforcement history.
The defendant was indicted with 11 alleged members and associates of a drug network that marketed cocaine and designer drugs online and distributed them through the mail. They were charged in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice called “Operation Skin Deep.”
Shazad Khan, 35, of North Bergen was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including 42 months of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. in Atlantic County. Khan pleaded guilty in June to first-degree money laundering. Khan was arrested along with a tractor trailer driver, Jose Ruvalcaba, 31, of Oxnard, Calif., in a parking lot off Union Turnpike in North Bergen, N.J. Detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice found approximately $1.2 million in cash in the trunk of Khan’s Infiniti, wrapped in bundles with duct tape. Khan met Ruvalcaba so that Ruvalcaba could transport the cash as payment for cocaine. Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was previously sentenced to seven years in prison.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Barile is prosecuting the defendants and handled the sentencing of Khan for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.
“Khan was arrested by the Division of Criminal Justice in one of the largest seizures of drug money in New Jersey law enforcement history – money that bought him a lengthy term in state prison,” said Attorney General Grewal. “I commend the detectives and prosecutors who conducted this far-reaching investigation, which started with street-level dealers in Atlantic City and expanded to uncover a multi-million dollar criminal syndicate that used the internet to market its drugs.”
“The excellent work of our attorneys and detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice has led to lengthy state prison sentences for the top members of this internet-age narcotics ring,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to protect the public by aggressively targeting the drug traffickers who are bringing addiction and drug-related violence to our communities”
Three top leaders of the drug ring previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced by Judge DeLury:
- Christopher Castelluzzo, 33, of Lake Hopatcong, N.J., who formed and led the criminal organization, pleaded guilty to a first-degree charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network and was sentenced to 21 years in prison, including nearly 18 years of parole ineligibility;
- Castelluzzo’s partner, Luke A. Atwell, 37, of Hamilton (Mercer County), N.J., who acted as managing partner of the drug ring, pleaded guilty to a first-degree charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network and was sentenced to 19 years in prison, including 16 years of parole ineligibility; and
- Aldo T. Lapaix, 31, of Absecon, N.J., who helped procure drugs for the ring and handled the packaging and shipping of drugs, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 8 ½ years of parole ineligibility on first-degree charges of racketeering and distribution of cocaine.
Six other ring members have pleaded guilty and received or face sentences ranging from five to 10 years in state prison.
Operation Skin Deep began when a detective of the Division of Criminal Justice identified individuals trafficking cocaine while monitoring the activities of white supremacist groups in Atlantic City. The investigation into cocaine sales in Atlantic City ultimately exposed a network that was using the internet to arrange mail-order sales of cocaine and designer drugs, including ethylone, which is known as “M” and is similar to ecstasy.
Deputy Attorney General Barile, who now is Deputy Bureau Chief of the Prosecutors Supervision Bureau, has prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Andrew Johns, Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith, and Assistant Attorney General Jill Mayer, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Former Deputy Attorney General Alyssa Schwab and Analyst Bethany Schussler assisted in the investigation for the Specialized Crimes Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller and Analyst Debra Maiorano handled the civil forfeiture action.
The lead detectives for the Division of Criminal Justice were Detective Scott Caponi of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and Detective Brian Christensen of the Specialized Crimes Bureau. They were assisted by Sgt. Mike Rasar and worked under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue and Lt. Lisa Cawley. They received extensive assistance from detectives of the Gangs & Organized Crime and Specialized Crimes Bureaus, North, South, and Central Units. The New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section also provided valuable assistance. Other partners that were critical to the success of the investigation were the Atlantic City Task Force, Bayonne Police Department, Galloway Police Department, North Bergen Police Department, New York City Police Department, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and New Jersey National Guard.
Defense Attorney: Robin Kay Lord, Esq., Trenton, N.J.
Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flicker & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.