|TRENTON - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that an Essex County man was sentenced to state prison today for leading a Newark-based narcotics ring that illegally distributed millions of dollars a year in OxyContin and other prescription painkillers.
Mohamed Hassanain, 47, of West Orange, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Joseph C. Cassini III in Essex County. Hassanain pleaded guilty on June 6, 2012 to charges of racketeering and distribution of narcotics. In pleading guilty, Hassanain admitted that from July 2005 to January 2007, he led a narcotics ring that sold approximately 40,000 OxyContin and Percocet pills per week, mostly to a distribution ring based in the Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx ring in turn sold some of the drugs to a ring in the Boston area. Hassanain and 18 other members of his ring were charged in an Aug. 2, 2007 state grand jury indictment that stemmed from “Operation Pandora,” an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. All of the defendants have pleaded guilty. Approximately $2 million in assets were seized and forfeited to the state in the investigation.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, and Deputy Attorney General Betty Rodriguez prosecuted the defendants and handled the sentencing hearing for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“The defendants in this case were reaping millions of dollars by distributing thousands of addictive narcotic pills every week to criminals who were dealing them on the streets of New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “By locking up the leader of this ring and his accomplices, we shut down their criminal enterprise so they can no longer contribute to the deadly national epidemic of painkiller abuse, which is killing roughly 40 Americans each day.”
“The lengthy prison sentence imposed on this defendant exemplifies how the Division of Criminal Justice and the State Police have focused intensely on combating the emerging threat of diversion of prescription painkillers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Together, we have now secured guilty pleas from all 19 defendants, who face a cumulative total of more than 200 years in state prison.”
The investigation determined that Hassanain and his deputies within the ring provided several hundred names a week to Dr. Mario Comensanas, 57, of Livingston, who was paid up to $100 per name to write a “set” of prescriptions – including 60 OxyContin pills, 90 Percocet pills and vitamins – for patients who did not exist or who were never seen by the doctor. Comesanas was sentenced to 15 years in prison on May 26, 2010 after pleading guilty to first-degree racketeering and second-degree distribution of narcotics.
Runners would take the fraudulent prescriptions to various pharmacies to have them filled. In exchange for cash, Hassanain’s cousin, pharmacist Ahmed F. “Felix” Aly, 38, of Union, knowingly filled the forged prescriptions at his pharmacy, RGN Pharmacy on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark. Aly pleaded guilty to racketeering on Oct. 30, 2009 and is awaiting sentencing. His pharmacy license was revoked by the State Board of Pharmacy within the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Hassanain ran the ring from his home in West Orange and his business on Clinton Avenue in Newark. He maintained various “stash” houses where he would accumulate thousands of pills per week for wholesale distribution. The pills were packaged in bulk, and individuals from the Bronx would come weekly to purchase them from Hassanain for tens of thousands of dollars.
On Jan. 25, 2007, the investigating agencies arrested most of the ring members and executed search warrants at 10 locations and upon five vehicles utilized by the enterprise. More than 40,000 narcotics pills, about $675,000 in cash, nine weapons, and thousands of prescriptions, both blank and executed, were recovered.
Under the plea agreement, Hassanain was required to forfeit nine parcels of real property he owns in Essex County and a Mercedes S-550, all of which were seized in the investigation as proceeds of the criminal enterprise. He forfeited any claim to the cash seized during the investigation.
Attorney General Chiesa credited Sgt. Thomas McEnroe and others within the State Police Major Crime and Intelligence Units and detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau North Squad for the investigation. He also credited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New Jersey Division, 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 in the investigation.