|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a mother and son from Bergen County were sentenced to state prison today for dealing large quantities of heroin and laundering the proceeds. They conspired with the woman’s husband, who is awaiting sentencing.
Lydia Cruz, 55, of Lodi, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including 18 months of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma in Bergen County. Cruz pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to second-degree conspiracy to distribute heroin. She admitted that she conspired with her husband, William Diaz, and her son, Irving Sanchez Jr., to distribute more than five ounces of heroin. Also today, Sanchez, 31, of Ridgefield Park, was sentenced to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi in Bergen County. Sanchez pleaded guilty on March 15 to second-degree charges of conspiracy and money laundering.
Diaz, 52, of Lodi, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Roma on May 17. Diaz pleaded guilty on March 1 to first-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute and second-degree conspiracy to commit money laundering. In pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge, he admitted that he conspired with Cruz and Sanchez to launder more than $75,000 in proceeds from their heroin dealing.
Deputy Attorney General Betty Rodriguez took the guilty pleas and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“We are faced with an alarming trend in which young people across New Jersey are becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, then switching to heroin as a cheaper alternative,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “We have conducted far-reaching investigations over the past year to take down major heroin networks in Camden, Paterson and New Brunswick. Our targets also include smaller criminal operations, such as this family-run heroin ring.”
“Our investigation revealed that Diaz was commuting to Manhattan, where he was selling numerous bundles of heroin per day,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Cruz would package the heroin in single-dose glassine bags that were grouped in bundles and bricks for distribution by Diaz and Sanchez. This really was a family affair.”
Cruz, Diaz and Sanchez were arrested on Aug. 21, 2011 by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau as a result of an investigation called “Operation Wakerider.” The Division of Criminal Justice began investigating the three family members in early 2011 and determined that Diaz was dealing thousands of dollars in heroin per week and laundering the proceeds with the assistance of his wife and his wife’s son, Sanchez. Diaz was selling much of the heroin in Manhattan.
Upon arresting the defendants, detectives executed a search warrant at the home of Diaz and Cruz in Lodi, where they seized more than five ounces of raw heroin, approximately $240,000 in cash, a small amount of cocaine, and packaging materials. Additional cash totaling approximately $146,000 was seized when detectives executed other search warrants, including warrants for the vehicle Diaz and Cruz were driving when they were arrested, Sanchez’s residence, a safety deposit box registered to Sanchez and Cruz, and a second safety deposit box registered to Sanchez alone. In parallel civil proceedings, the state is seeking forfeiture of the roughly $386,000 in cash that was seized, as well as two vehicles that were seized, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade and a 2005 Chrysler.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau by Detective Travis Johnson, under the direction of Deputy Chief of Detectives Charles Foley. Deputy Attorney General Veronica Allende presented the case to the state grand jury for indictment. Deputy Attorney General Betty Rodriguez prosecuted the defendants. The Division of Criminal Justice was assisted by the New York Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, the Boonton Police Department, the New Jersey State Police Electronic Surveillance Unit, and the Ridgefield Park Police Department.