The New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations have arrested three men who were found with 15-pounds (nearly seven kilograms) of fentanyl as they shut down an opioid mill based in Newark but one that impacted the entire state, announced New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and NJSP Colonel Patrick Callahan.

Investigators said that the mill operators were distributing their narcotics in wax folds stamped with the same brand names that have been linked to 76 total suspected overdoses across New Jersey, including 29 fatal overdoses.

In November of last year, the New Jersey State Police Gangs and Organized Crime North Unit and the HSI Transitional Organized Crime and Gang Group began investigating the criminal activities of several criminal organizations operating in and around Newark.

On Sunday of this week, as part of their investigation, members of the State Police Gangs and Organized Crime North Unit, T.E.A.M.S, K-9, Crime Scene North, and Hazmat Units, along with HSI TOCGG executed a search warrant at a residence on Hobson Street in Newark and seized:

  • Seven kilograms of fentanyl, including a combination of pure fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with cutting agents
  • Three handguns: two .45-caliber handguns and a .380-caliber handgun
  • Two large capacity magazines: a 28-round .45-caliber drum and a 13-round .45-caliber high capacity magazine
  • Thirteen .45-caliber flat nose cartridges

Detectives also seized 59 different rubber stamps the mill operators used to “brand” the wax folds they used to package narcotics prior to street-level distribution.

Grewal and Callahan said that drug traffickers typically package heroin and/or fentanyl in a wax fold, which is considered one dose and they also market their “brand” of drug by ink-stamping the outside of the wax fold with a unique image, word or phrase such as “Passion,” “Thanos,” “Thor,” and “No Days Off,” which are examples of stamps recovered from this mill.

The counties most impacted by the overdoses attributed to the brands associated with this mill were Middlesex (14), Union (13), Ocean (10), Monmouth (9), Morris (7), Essex (6), and Bergen (5) Counties.

Whydia Durham, 46, of Union, Dereemus Botts, 34, of Irvington and Nelson Johnson, 30, of Newark were arrested and charged with:

  • Maintaining a CDS facility
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Possession within 1000 feet of a school zone
  • Destruction of evidence
  • Distribution/possession of CDS paraphernalia
  • Unlawful possession of a handgun (3 counts)
  • Unlawful possession of a handgun during a CDS offense (3 counts)
  • Unlawful possession of a high capacity magazine (2 counts)
  • CDS processing equipment

“The poison that the criminals operating this mill pushed out across New Jersey is alleged to have claimed at least 29 lives,” Attorney General Grewal said. “By working with our federal partners at the Department of Homeland Security, we are bringing a new enforcement approach to beating back this epidemic. We are focusing our efforts on the deadliest mills in New Jersey to choke off the supply of these highly potent drugs at the source where they are mixed and packaged. These collaborative efforts will continue to save countless lives, as we also continue to focus on our innovative prevention and treatment efforts.” 

“Twenty-nine people lost their lives linked to the brands associated with this mill, but the victims were not limited to its physical location.  Our analysis through the Drug Monitoring Initiative illustrates how quickly deadly narcotics processed in these mills spread across the state,” NJSP Colonel Patrick Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said. “Fentanyl is a killer that does not differentiate between the user, police officer, first responder, or child who accidentally comes into contact with it.  I commend the State Police detectives and our partners who have without question saved lives as a result of this outstanding investigation.”

“In the deadly opioid epidemic, nothing is more lethal than fentanyl, a drug that continues to find its way all across the nation, including our state,” Brian Michael, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark, said. “Fortunately, law enforcement partnerships like this, between the New Jersey State Police and HSI Newark, do incredible work in investigating and arresting the dangerous criminals who operate these drug mills and endanger public safety.”

This case will be prosecuted by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.

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