STATE POLICE & DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ARREST ALLEGED MEMBERS OF MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR PRESCRIPTION DRUG RING
Alleged leader, doctor, pharmacist arrested in takedown of Newark narcotics network
Trenton, N.J. - Attorney General Stuart Rabner, State
Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes and Criminal Justice Director
Gregory A. Paw today announced the arrests of five alleged
top members of a Newark-based narcotics ring that distributed
millions of dollars a year in illegal prescription painkillers
such as OxyContin. Two other alleged members were previously
arrested in New York, and warrants are outstanding for more
than a dozen individuals.
According to Paw, those arrested late yesterday include the alleged ringleader, Mohamed Hassanain, 40, of Edgar Road, West Orange, and a physician, Dr. Mario Comesanas, 51, of Livingston, who allegedly went to Hassanain's home to write thousands of fraudulent painkiller prescriptions. Also arrested was a pharmacist Ahmed F. "Felix" Aly 32, of Union, Hassanain's cousin, who is charged with knowingly filling the forged prescriptions. Hassanain, who sometimes uses the alias Mohamed Aly, allegedly ran the ring from his business, Lyons Avenue Auto Sales on Clinton Avenue in Newark, as well as his home.
The charges against the alleged members of the ring stem from a six-month investigation led by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division. The investigation, dubbed "Operation Pandora," determined that the network allegedly sold 20,000 to 30,000 OxyContin and Percocet pills per week, with most going to a distribution ring based in the Bronx, N.Y., according to Colonel Fuentes. Approximately 22,000 prescription pills were seized overnight, along with seven guns and hundreds of thousands of dollars as law enforcement agencies executed search warrants at 10 locations. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are expected.
"This operation brings to a grinding halt a dangerous, multi-million dollar criminal enterprise," said Attorney General Rabner. "We have arrested the alleged leader of this narcotics ring as well as those who supplied him with what had been an endless supply of illegal prescription drugs."
"Like the mythical Pandora's box, once this investigation was opened, a plethora of criminal acts, conspiracies and perpetrators kept pouring out. The magnitude of this case and the far reaching implications of these drugs on the street beg for the kind of interagency cooperation we are proud to encourage," said Colonel Fuentes.
"The State Police and Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, aggressively and skillfully pursued this investigation into every corner of this criminal organization," said Director Paw. "With these arrests, we have dismantled it from top to bottom."
Hassanain and his deputies allegedly provided up to several hundred names a week to Dr. Comesanas, who allegedly was paid $100 per name to write a "set" of prescriptions, including 60 OxyContin pills, 90 Percocet pills and vitamins. Vitamins allegedly were included to make the prescriptions appear more legitimate.
Hassanain and his deputies allegedly used numerous "runners" to fill the prescriptions at various pharmacies using fraudulent identifications. It is alleged that the defendants also forged identification documents and laundered money to further their criminal activities.
Hassanain was charged with being an organized crime leader and money laundering. Dr. Comesanas was also charged with money laundering. In addition, Hassanain, Dr. Comesanas and the other defendants were charged with racketeering, distribution of narcotics and forgery. Hassanain and Comesanas were charged with first-degree racketeering and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on that charge. All the defendants face second-degree charges, which carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. A list of those arrested is attached.
Also arrested were Stephanie "Sara" McLucas, 54, of Maplewood, and Edmond Roberson, 41, of Union. Four other people were arrested on charges unrelated to the investigation when they were allegedly found to be in possession of narcotics or guns during the execution of search warrants.
Authorities searched 10 locations, including Hassanain's home, his two auto shops, Dr. Comesanas' home and RGN Pharmacy on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark, which is owned by Ahmed Aly. At Hassanain's second auto shop on South 11th Street in Newark, police seized a bag containing a Tech 9 and five handguns, including .357-caliber Magnums. Several hundred thousand dollars were seized at Dr. Comesanas home, and Hassanain had $10,000 in his sleeve when he was arrested. The state filed notices of liens for 14 pieces of real estate owned by Hassanain, which are alleged to be the proceeds of criminal activity and which the state will seek to have forfeited. Detailed information is attached.
Attorney General Rabner credited detectives in the State Police Major Crimes Unit and investigators in the Division of Criminal Justice - Organized Crime & Racketeering Bureau for leading the investigation. Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades is handling the case for the Attorney General.
Attorney General Rabner also credited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gerard P. McAleer, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, members of the NY/NJ High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, and the New York State Police for assisting the investigation. He thanked the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Newark Police Department, West Orange Police Department, Livingston Police Department, Irvington Police Department Maplewood Police Department, Union Township Police Department and Essex County Sheriff's Department for assisting in the arrests and execution of search warrants.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigation will be presented to a state grand jury for review and potential indictment. The five arrested defendants are being held in the Essex County Jail and are expected to be arraigned today in Superior Court.
OPERATION PANDORA - DEFENDANTS ARRESTED
- Mohomed Hassanain, 41, West Orange, $1.5 million bail;
- Dr. Mario Comesanas, 51, of Livingston, $1 million bail;
- Ahmed F. "Felix" Aly, 32, of Union, owner of RGN Pharmacy on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark, who allegedly knowingly filled fraudulent prescriptions, $750,000 bail;
- Stephanie "Sara" McLucas, 54, of Maplewood, an alleged runner who generated lists of names used by Dr. Comesanas for fraudulent prescriptions and filled prescriptions, $1 million bail;
- Edmond Roberson, 41, of Union, who allegedly received fraudulent prescriptions and narcotics and distributed narcotics, $350,000 bail;
- Raul Cruz, 27, of Bronx, N.Y., an alleged member of the Bronx narcotics distribution ring that received drugs from Hassanain's ring, arrested in December in New York.
- Edwin Polanco, 28, New York City, an alleged member of the Bronx narcotics ring, arrested in December in New York.
PROPERTIES OF MOHAMED HASSANAIN SUBJECTED
AS ALLEGED PROCEEDS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY
- 94 Morse Avenue, Bloomfield
- 30 Edgar Road, West Orange
- 100 Osborne Terrace, Newark
- 332 Clinton Avenue, Newark
- 673-675 Clinton Avenue, Newark
- 389 Halsey Street, Newark
- 21 North 18th Street, Newark
- 56 Highland Ave., Newark
- 24 Highland Ave., Newark
- 222 South Eleventh St., Newark
- 117 RidgewoodAvenue, Newark
- 18 Fabyan Place, Newark
- 47 Park View Terrace, Newark
- 44 North Jefferson Street, Orange
- 30 Edgar Road, West Orange, Hassanain's home
- 332 Clinton Avenue, Newark, Hassanain's auto shop
- 661 South 11th Street, Newark, Hassanain's new auto shop
- 21 Grand Terrace, Livingston, Dr. Comesanas' home
- 78 Jacoby Street, Maplewood, McLucas' home
- 22 Elizabeth Avenue, Newark, RGN Pharmacy
- 2051 Springfield Avenue, Union Township, All USA Bail Bonds
- 42 Quabeck Avenue, Irvington
- 203 Seymour Avenue, Apartment 1-B, Newark
- 37 Chadwick Avenue, Apartment 2-A, Newark, Martin's residence
more info on individuals and charges (PDF)
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