Five members of a drug-trafficking organization have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to distribute significant amounts of narcotics through an open-air drug market in Camden.
The indictment announced by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito charges the defendants with participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy that involved at least one kilogram of a mixture and substance containing heroin; at least 280 grams of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base (“crack cocaine”); and quantities of cocaine and fentanyl.
Each defendant named in the indictment was previously charged by federal complaint.
The indicted defendants include: Juan Figueroa, 22; Christopher Vasquez, 29; Jose Diaz, 27; and Jose Agron, 26, all of Camden; and Dwight Williams, 28, of Lumberton, New Jersey.
Nine other members of the drug-trafficking conspiracy – Ronnie Lopez, Nelson Salcedo, Paul Salcedo, Waldemar Garcia, William Carrillo, Elisa Rivera, Ramon Velez, Naeem Sadler, and Jasmin Velez – previously have pleaded guilty in this case. The charges against four other defendants in this case remain pending, and they and the defendants indicted today are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI used surveillance, confidential informants, consensual recordings, multiple controlled drug purchases, a GPS vehicle tracker, search warrants of several different locations, and several court-authorized wiretaps to uncover the operations of a drug trafficking organization that dealt heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine, and fentanyl in and around Camden, according to documents filed in this case and statements made in court.
The organization’s activities were concentrated on the 400-500 blocks of Pine Street, where members distributed drugs to customers who approached on foot and in vehicles, according to the documents. The organization also supplied drugs elsewhere, including in and around the residences of some of its members, documents show.
Members of the organization previously had conducted drug trafficking activities in and around the 1900 block of Filmore Street. After a fatal, drug-related shooting in that area in April 2017, local law enforcement increased their presence in the area and the drug-trafficking activities ultimately shifted to the area around Pine Street.
The investigation revealed that the organization’s members worked together in a multi-layered organization to supply drugs, according to the documents.
The main role of Ronnie Lopez – one of the leaders of the organization – was to obtain bulk quantities of illegal drugs for sale to customers, documents show.
The organization also had distributors and packagers, such as Carlos Perez and Nelson Salcedo, whose main roles were to obtain drugs from Lopez and others and to prepare and package the drugs for distribution downstream, according to records.
The organization used “runners,” or managers, like Juan Figueroa and Paul Salcedo. These individuals obtained drugs from higher-level distributors and packagers within the organization and then provided those drugs downstream to shift managers like Jose Diaz and Christopher Vazquez, court records show.
“Runners” also collected drug proceeds from lower-level shift managers and provided that money to higher-level members of the organization, such as Lopez. Shift managers, in turn, supervised the organization’s set workers, who sold drugs directly to customers and passed the proceeds up the organizational hierarchy, according to court records.
Multiple communications intercepted by wiretaps reflected that members of the organization owned guns and were prepared to use them, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
In November 2018, law enforcement officers recovered firearms during the execution of several search warrants on locations related to the drug-trafficking organization.
Juan Figueroa currently is facing several charges in Camden County Superior Court regarding the Aug. 7, 2018, shooting of two law enforcement officers, who were in an unmarked car and wearing plain clothes after having conducted surveillance earlier in the day on members of the organization.
Some of the heroin that was purchased from the organization bore the same stamp as drugs found at the sites of drug overdoses in Camden, including two fatal overdoses, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The drug trafficking conspiracy count carries a mandatory penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, and a $10 million fine.