DEA and Mercer County Narcotics Task Force
MAR 5 -- LAWRENCEVILLE –Gerard P. McAleer Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Drug Enforcement Administration , New Jersey Division and Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. today announced that a seven-month investigation into cocaine and heroin distribution in and around Mercer County has culminated with the arrest of 42 individuals by law enforcement authorities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the seizure of 20 kilograms of powder cocaine (approximately 44 pounds), 202 bricks of heroin (10,119 decks) and three pounds of marijuana.
This is the largest investigative seizure in Mercer County ’s history, with a total retail value of $1,101,190 in confiscated drugs. The powder cocaine was valued at $25,000 per kilo (wholesale) and $50 per gram (retail) for a total of $1 million. The heroin was valued at $10 per deck for a total of $101,190.
SAC McAleer stated, “This organization thought they could thwart law enforcement by utilizing their criminal minds. They overestimated their acumen. We put our investigative talents to work and now they will be weeping on Willow Street because they are all going to jail.”
“This was a massive investigative undertaking involving federal, state, county and local police agencies across New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Prosecutor Bocchini said. “In total, there were 39 full-time task force members and more than 100 part-time officers assigned to Operation Weeping Willow. Without the manpower and resources provided by the 21 law enforcement agencies involved, an investigation of this scope and magnitude would never have been possible.”
"This operation represents the tremendous good that can be done when law enforcement from all levels comes together to work as a team toward one goal," said U.S. Attorney Christie. "A federal prosecution and conviction would mean that the leaders of drug gangs will spend many years in maximum security prisons located far from Trenton , making it impossible for them to run their operations from jail."
According to Prosecutor Bocchini, the initial investigation focused on the alleged drug activities of Corey Spruill, a cocaine and heroin distributor who lived in the 200 block of North Willow Street in Trenton. Through informant information, controlled buys, surveillances and intelligence, the source of Spruill’s cocaine was identified as Gregory “Lamar” Gibson who lived a few doors down on North Willow Street . Gibson was known to be one of the largest cocaine distributors in Mercer County whom law enforcement had not yet been able to apprehend. Spruill’s heroin supplier was identified as Pierce Pack, another Trentonian whom was providing Spruill with multiple bricks of the drug.
The Mercer County Narcotics Task Force began its aggressive investigation of Spruill, Gibson and Pack in October 2006 and dubbed the job “Operation Weeping Willow.” Over the next few months, detectives identified Gibson’s multiple kilogram cocaine source as a Vietnamese National named Phong Trinh of Philadelphia, Pa. Trinh supplied Gibson with cocaine on a monthly basis utilizing a courier identified as Joseph Walker, a Philadelphia native residing in Sicklerville , NJ , to deliver the drugs and pick up the cash.
The investigation revealed that Gibson and Trinh had a cocaine transaction arranged for January 12, 2007. Using ground and aerial surveillance, detectives followed Gibson to Franklin Mills Mall in northeast Philadelphia where he met with Walker . Detectives observed the exchange and followed Gibson back to Trenton where he was detained at the corner of N. Stockton and Perry streets. Detectives seized 10 kilos of cocaine from a large box in the bed of Gibson’s Dodge Dakota and two kilos from his North Willow Street residence.
Trinh and Walker were also taken into custody on January 12 by DEA special agents in Philadelphia , Pa. A few days later, an additional eight kilos of cocaine were located in a Bensalem storage locker rented by Walker .
As the investigation into the cocaine suppliers was progressing, the task force was also scrutinizing Spruill’s heroin connection. In December 2006, detectives ascertained that Spruill’s supplier, Pierce Pack, was traveling to northern New Jersey/New York several times per week to purchase anywhere from 50 to 150 bricks of heroin at a time. He was also using female couriers traveling by train to pick up his heroin.
On December 14, 2006, task force detectives arrested one of these couriers, Alyssia Feliciano, as she exited a New Jersey Transit train at the Hamilton Train Station and seized the 110 bricks of heroin she was bringing to Pack. On January 29, 2007, another courier of Pack’s, utilizing a livery car, was intercepted on his way back into Mercer County. Detectives arrested Pack and three others, and seized another 92 bricks of heroin.
As a result of the investigation, Spruill was arrested last week at his North Willow Street residence.
Authorities also seized nine vehicles, 42 motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, more than $69,700 in cash, $69,300 in jewelry, $13,200 in appliances and $1,500 in tools, and 10 weapons including, two AK-47 assault rifles, one shotgun, three rifles and four semi-automatic handguns, in connection with the investigation.
Numerous properties up and down the East Coast and larger assets, including bank accounts totaling in excess of $250,000, continue to be investigated by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA.
Operation Weeping Willow developed over seven months of investigation. It initiated with the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, under the leadership of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Special Investigations Unit, and received support and resources from 20 additional agencies including: