TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that the leader of a violent Perth Amboy-based drug network linked to the Ñetas street gang pleaded guilty today to racketeering. His sister also pleaded guilty today in connection with a prison drug smuggling scheme.
Danni Rivera, 29, of Rahway, a high-ranking member of the Ñetas, pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering before Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he led the narcotics ring, which distributed heroin and cocaine on the street and inside New Jersey State Prison. Under the plea agreement, Rivera faces a sentence of 20 years in state prison, including 17 years of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act. Deputy Attorney General Russell Curley took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug 26.
An Aug. 6, 2012 state grand jury indictment charged Rivera and 29 other defendants with distributing heroin and crack cocaine on the street in Middlesex County and in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. The indictment stemmed from Operation New Era Taking Action, a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, Perth Amboy Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and N.J. Department of Corrections. Rivera was also charged with ordering the kidnapping of a young man who was beaten, taken to a motel in Sayreville, and held at gunpoint in December 2009.
“Drugs and violence were the stock-in-trade of Danni Rivera, who used his clout as a high-ranking member of the Ñetas to command a major narcotics ring that distributed drugs on the street as well as inside a maximum security prison,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “This racketeering plea will ensure that he remains behind bars for many years.”
“We are continuing to prosecute the other defendants charged as members of Rivera’s narcotics network, all of whom face charges of first-degree racketeering,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through this multi-agency investigation, we tracked the narcotics distribution activities of this gang-related enterprise from the streets of Perth Amboy to the cells of New Jersey State Prison.”
The joint investigation revealed that Rivera, as a local leader of the Ñetas, exercised control and authority over the other members of the narcotics network. The charges are pending against most of the other defendants, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Fourteen co-defendants were charged with conspiracy and money laundering in connection with the scheme to sell heroin to inmates in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. It is alleged that two inmates in the prison, William Suarez, 28, and Eligio Bueno, 30, both of whom are Ñetas serving sentences for murder, conspired with Rivera and others to take heroin orders from fellow inmates and have heroin smuggled to the customers inside the prison. They allegedly would direct the inmates to have money sent to the defendants outside the prison, for delivery to Rivera’s sister, Isis Rivera, 28, of South Amboy, or another intermediary.
Today, Isis Rivera also pleaded guilty. She pleaded guilty before Judge Ferencz to second-degree racketeering for helping to launder money in connection with the prison smuggling scheme. Under her plea agreement, the state will recommend a sentence of seven years in state prison. Judge Ferencz scheduled her sentencing for July 1.
Attorney General Chiesa commended all of the law enforcement personnel who worked on the investigation, including the Perth Amboy Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, and the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division. Attorney General Chiesa also thanked the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their valuable assistance.