Members of Monmouth County Based International Narcotics Distribution and Money Laundering Network Arrested; Organization Disrupted and Dismantled
JUN 9 --The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - New Jersey Division and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and joined forces and investigated a narcotics trafficking and money laundering organization which was responsible for the distribution of significant quantities of cocaine from sources across the United States and in other countries to Monmouth County and the surrounding area.
The investigation, dubbed "OPERATION UNBOUNDED," commenced in the Spring of 2007 when members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (hereinafter “D.E.A.”) obtained information that the organization was based in Manalapan, N.J., and was also operating in Middlesex County, N.J. The investigation ultimately revealed that the organization's method of operation was to import cocaine from Mexico and Colombia and to use 2 corporations owned by a leader of the organization to launder the financial proceeds. The investigation also revealed that members of the organization were careful to never be in possession of both narcotics and large sums of cash at the same time.
Gerard P. McAleer, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - New Jersey Division stated, "This organization’s reach was unbounded, their proceeds were unbounded; they did not take into account that our investigative tenacity was unbounded.”
Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin stated, "This investigation is yet another example of the way in which successful partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement can benefit our community. This investigation successfully identified and led to the arrest of a leader of this international drug distribution and money laundering organization. It also resulted in the seizure of substantial quantities of narcotics which were destined for the streets of Monmouth County." Prosecutor Valentin further commended the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for its assistance, dedication and commitment to the investigation.
During the investigation, several seizures and arrests occurred, which without limitation included the following:
The investigation revealed that the base of operations of this organization was a multi-million dollar gated property located in Manalapan, N.J., and owned by defendants Vicente Esteves, 35, and his wife, Chantal Esteves, 30. The investigation revealed that the organization's criminal activities occurred in multiple states and also operated internationally, to include, without limitation, Mexico and Colombia.
Thus far the investigation has resulted in 7 individuals being arrested in New Jersey for their roles in this international narcotics distribution and money laundering organization. The identities of those arrested, and their respective bails, are as follows:
Each of the 7 foregoing named individuals has been charged with one count of second degree Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance. Edwards, both Esteves's, Lopez and Rodriguez are also charged with one count of first degree Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity ("Money Laundering"). If convicted of the Conspiracy charge, the maximum potential custodial sentence is a term of up to 10 years. If convicted of Money Laundering, the maximum potential custodial sentence is a term of up to 20 years.
The investigation revealed that Vicente Esteves was a leader of the organization and that he coordinated the importation of the narcotics into the United States as well as the collection of the resulting proceeds. In addition, Vicente Esteves is the registered owner of 2 corporations which were used to launder the organization's proceeds. Chantal Esteves communicated with the organization's associates on her husband's behalf while he was traveling outside of the United States.
The investigation revealed that Rodriguez served as Vicente Esteves' Lieutenant, directing the distribution of the narcotics and the resulting proceeds. Cabrera-Cepeda and Barringer acted primarily to transport narcotics while Lopez's and Edwards' roles were primarily to transport money.
All 7 individuals are being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in lieu of bail. All of the bails were set by Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson. All bails are cash only and require a source of funds hearing prior to bail being posted.
In total, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately 150 pounds of cocaine and approximately $2,000,000 in U.S. currency. The estimated street value of the seized cocaine is approximately $2,000,000.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - New Jersey Division Task Force in conjunction with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. The Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from the following agencies: the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office; the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office; the Jersey City Police Department; the East Orange Police Department; the Elizabeth Police Department; the Paterson Police Department; the Passaic County Sheriff's Office; and the United States Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. Also participating in the investigation were the New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, the Manalapan Police Department, and the Hackensack Police Department.
Notwithstanding these arrests the investigation is continuing. Any individuals with information which may be pertinent to the investigation should contact Captain Brian Rubino of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 1- 800/ 533-7443. Photographs of the arrested individuals named in this News Release are attached to this News Release in order to assist the public in determining whether they have information relevant to this investigation.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state law.
The case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor James E. Jones, Jr.