CAMDEN, NJ — Twelve members of a family-run drug network known to distribute large quantities of heroin and fentanyl in North Camden were indicted as part of an investigation that included officials from both sides of the river, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Friday.
As part of “Operation Strikeout,” which took over a year to carry out, 12 individuals were indicted on first-degree racketeering as alleged members of the drug ring.
Two others face weapons charges, making the total number of defendants indicted 14.
The drug ring was based on the 400 block of Grant Street and operated in and around a section of North Camden extending from Grant Street to Elm Street between Coopers Poynt School and Northgate II Park.
Most defendants also face charges of third-degree distribution of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school.
“I want to thank the Attorney General for focusing resources and the tools that were needed to dismantle this network of individuals who were terrorizing the city,” said Camden County Sheriff Gilbert Wilson. “Our agency was proud to work alongside our law enforcement partners to get these violent criminals off of our streets. Moving forward we will continue to assist our front line partners in eliminating violent crime and opioid distribution, not only making the city safer but improving public safety throughout the county.”
In all, 70 grams of pure fentanyl were seized from a residence on Whitaker Avenue in Philadelphia, referred to by one of the alleged members as “the Office” where the packaging was believed to take place.
Six guns were also found as part of the investigation.
According to authorities, the residence was “an operational narcotics mill” fitted with sifters, scales, a number of cutting agents, wax folds, and five rubber ink stamps used to print “Bad Boys,” “SpongeBob,” “Glizzy Gang,” “NS,” and “Two Guns” on wax folds.
The brand “Bad Boys” has been linked to three overdoses — including two fatalities.
The alleged “owners and operators” of the drug ring include Wilbert Segarra, 40, Luis Rosado, 28, and Meligza Cruz, 32, all of Camden.
Segarra, the alleged ringleader, was charged with first-degree leader of a narcotics trafficking network, which carries a sentence of life in prison, including 25 years without parole. He and co-defendant Joseph Cooper Jr. are also charged with attempted murder in the non-fatal shooting of a man at 27th and Howell streets last May.
Officials said the shooting allegedly stemmed from violence between the drug network and a rival drug set.
Authorities said, “Segarra, Rosado, and Cruz are all allegedly members of the G-Shine set of the Bloods street gang.”
Segarra later fled and was arrested on July 23, 2019, in Virginia, but he allegedly continued to run the drug network with Luis Rosado while on the run and in jail. The attempted murder case was initially investigated and charged by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO).
Rosado reportedly took Segarra’s place as operator of the drug network after the shooting in May 2019, receiving direction from Segarra through phone calls and mail. Cruz, Rosado’s girlfriend, allegedly managed day-to-day operations for the drug network.
She has been charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.
“Eliminating this violent drug network that was pedaling poison on the streets of our city will overwhelmingly improve the quality of life for residents and make the North and East Camden neighborhoods a safer place for residents,” said Camden Police Chief Joseph Wysocki. “Ultimately, we know more than 80 percent of fatal overdoses in the city are related to fentanyl adulterated narcotics killing scores of people. This staggering statistic alone underscores the critical work of Operation Strikeout. Furthermore, I want to thank the men and women of the other agencies who brought this case together and got these individuals off our streets.”
In addition to Segarra, Rosado, and Meligza Cruz, the following were charged with first-degree racketeering:
Maria Morales, 29, of Camden
Ramon Saldana, 22, of Camden
Rafael Velazquez, 27, of Camden
Migdoel Morales-Cruz, 33, of Camden
Michael Canales, 23, of Camden
Angel Martinez, 34, of Camden
Daniel Sanjurjo, Jr., 21, of Camden
Emanuel Morales, 25, of Camden
Joseph Cooper Jr., 24, of Philadelphia
Meligza Cruz, Maria Morales, Emanuel Morales, and Migdoel Morales-Cruz are all related as either siblings or cousins - and investigators said other ring members may also be related.
All 12 racketeering defendants were also charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and, except for Segarra, are variously charged with additional second- and third-degree drug offenses.
Jose Morales, 49, of Camden and Jesus Morales Cruz, 34, of Philadelphia, who also are family members, were indicted on weapons charges.
Over a year investigating
In January 2019, controlled purchases of hundreds of single-dose wax folds of heroin and fentanyl were carried out as part of the investigation.
Rosado and Cruz, as well as eight other defendants, were arrested on Oct. 4, 2019, when agencies involved carried out search warrants in Camden and Philadelphia.
Segarra was already in jail on the attempted murder charge at the time and other defendants were arrested later.
Among the materials seized in both Camden and Philadelphia:
Two semi-automatic handguns (one with a defaced serial number)
$2,960 in cash
Approximately 285 wax folds of heroin and fentanyl
Three semi-automatic pistols — including one illegal “ghost gun” assembled from parts bearing no serial number — were seized at the Philadelphia heroin mill,
Several large-capacity magazines, including a 50-round drum-type magazine
Polymer and schematic plans to manufacture ghost-gun assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
“Through this operation, we dismantled a major drug ring that allegedly was dealing large quantities of heroin and fentanyl in a violence-torn neighborhood in North Camden,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By targeting the entire alleged hierarchy of this network with first-degree charges – including a leader charge for the top ringleader and racketeering charges for 12 defendants – we are sending a strong message that we will prosecute drug traffickers to the full extent of the law. We will continue to collaborate with our partners in Camden and throughout New Jersey to arrest the drug dealers who are driving gun violence in our cities and fueling the opioid epidemic that is destroying so many lives.”
Law enforcement agencies involved included: Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Camden County Metro Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey State Police, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia Police Department.