June 18, 2014
Contact: Timothy P. McMahon
Phone Number: (973) 776-1143
Former Immigration Officer, Postal Worker Charged In Takedown Of 14-Member Interstate Methamphetamine Distribution Ring
NEWARK, N.J. - Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division and Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey announced 14 people - including a former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer and a U.S. Postal Service worker - have been arrested and charged for their alleged roles in a multi-state drug trafficking ring supplying large quantities of methamphetamine to the Jersey City area.
Nine alleged members of the ring were arrested June 16 to 18, 2014, by agents of the Drug Enforcement (DEA) as well as state and local law enforcement following a one-year investigation led by the DEA. They were charged by complaint with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The New Jersey defendants made their initial court appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.
Among the 14 people charged today are defendants from Las Vegas, Nev., Los Angeles, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Since July 2013, law enforcement has been investigating a drug trafficking (DTO) operating in Jersey City, NJ. The DTO coordinated shipments of methamphetamine from suppliers in Arizona, California, and Nevada through the mail to locations in northern New Jersey. Suppliers concealed the methamphetamine inside parcels that were shipped to addresses provided by the New Jersey-based conspirators, who would repackage the drugs for sale to lower level distributors.
John Freehauf, 36, a/k/a “Johnnie Rocket,” a/k/a “Agent,” of Jersey City, a former officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS), allegedly coordinated the acquisition of the methamphetamine, ordering several pounds per month from various interstate suppliers. Freehauf negotiated the price and provided New Jersey addresses for his suppliers. He and Benjamin Navarro, 44, a/k/a “Kristie,” of Jersey City, repackaged the drugs for distribution to lower level suppliers and retailers.
Maria Lisa Pascual, 36, of North Bergen, N.J., used her position with the U.S. Postal Service to track and oversee the shipment of parcels. Pascual, Arnold Balagtas, 54, of Jersey City, and other conspirators redistributed smaller quantities of methamphetamine to lower level dealers and retailers. Pascual and Freehauf agreed to use the same sources of supply and to work together to set a common “market price” for methamphetamine in the northern New Jersey area. Pascual and Freehauf also assisted each other in distributing methamphetamine to lower level dealers. Pascual has recently been terminated by the U.S. Postal Service. The defendants are:
Freehauf, Pascual, Balagtas, Anciado, Tulud, Healy and Vidallon all appeared June 17, 2014, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Waldor in Newark federal court. Diaz appeared in federal court in Los Angeles June 17, 2014, and is scheduled to appear in Newark federal court on June 30, 2014. Cipriano appeared before Judge Waldor today. Navarro, Luna and Tiangco remains at large.
Bontempi, a/k/a “Rooster;” and Taylor were both arrested on May 12, 2014, in Phoenix, Arizona. Both were detained and transported to New Jersey, where they made their initial appearances today before Judge Waldor.
The count with which each of the defendants is charged carries a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski; U.S. Postal Inspectors under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; law enforcement officers from the N.J. National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, under the direction of the Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff; the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Superintendent Rick Fuentes; the Edison Police Department, under the direction of Chief Thomas Bryan; and the Jersey City Police Department, under the direction of Chief Robert Cowan, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam N. Subervi and Charlton Rugg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Narcotics Unit in Newark.