A man from Elmwood Park and another from Lodi were each given 10-year prison sentences on Friday for supplying heroin to a major drug ring that trafficked heroin from Paterson to South Jersey, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Richard Michilena, 27, of Elmwood Park, and Bolivar Delacruz, 40, of Lodi, pleaded guilty to heroin possession with intent to distribute on February 13, 2017. Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury, Jr. sentenced both men on Friday.
Michilena and Delacruz were among 19 people arrested in April 2015 following an eight-month long investigation by the Atlantic City Task Force which revealed a drug network that unloaded 30,000 doses of heroin every month in Atlantic and Ocean counties.
“By supplying large quantities of heroin for distribution in two of the counties hardest hit by the opiate epidemic, these two men were profiting from addiction and death,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “Thanks to the tremendous work of the Atlantic City Task Force and its many law enforcement partners, they now face lengthy prison sentences.”
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies worked jointly to dismantle the trafficking network, authorities said. Authorities seized 16,000 doses or bags of heroin and over $52,000 in cash.
“Nothing less than a multi-jurisdictional partnership was needed to dismantle this drug dealing network that operated in various counties throughout the state,” Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said. “There is no doubt that the actions of these drug dealers contributed to the downward spiral of those who are plagued by heroin addiction. I commend all of the law enforcement agencies that worked together to shut down this major flow of drugs into our communities.”
The ring sold fentanyl laced heroin and employed juveniles to make sales. In some cases members of the ring conducted transactions in front of young children and even accepted public assistance subsidies as payment for heroin, authorities said.
Michilena and Delacruz were caught on April 18, 2015 while meeting two others to close a transaction at East 33rd Street and 13th Avenue in Paterson. Helene Gonzalez, 39, of Pleasantville, and Tarik Hopkins, 35, of Galloway, allegedly met Michilena and Delacruz to secure more heroin for distribution in South Jersey.
Police had both men under watch and converged on the scene to make arrests. Detectives seized a purse containing $23,885 that Gonzalez and Hopkins allegedly gave to Delacruz and Michilena to purchase heroin.
Detectives seized 10,000 single-dose wax paper folds of heroin in 200 bundles of 50 bricks in a duffel bag in the back seat of the BMW Michilena drove.
Gonzalez and Hopkins’s cases are still pending, authorities said.
“Strategic investigations such as this one save lives in two ways: by disrupting the supply of deadly heroin and by reducing the violence inevitably associated with street-level drug dealing,” Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, said. “Through this investigation, we cut off a major pipeline of heroin flowing from the distribution hub of Paterson to Atlantic City.”