|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that six alleged members of a drug ring were indicted today on first-degree charges for allegedly operating a heroin mill and distributing large quantities of heroin in Camden. The indictment was the result of a joint investigation called “Operation China White” that was led by the New Jersey State Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained an eight-count state grand jury indictment charging the following six Camden residents as indicated:
- Andy Lopez, 29, aka “Christian Lopez” and “Christian Correa.” Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (2 Counts – 1st degree), Distribution of Heroin Within 500 Feet of a Park (Von Neida Park) (2nd degree) and Resisting Arrest (4th degree).
- Wilson Fortuna, 24. Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (1st degree) and Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute (1st degree).
- Jose O. Fortuna, 38. (Wilson Fortuna’s uncle) Conspiracy (2nd degree), Maintaining a Heroin Production Facility (1st degree), Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute (1st degree), and Money Laundering (3rd degree).
- Ruben D. Ramos, 25. Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (1st degree) and Distribution of Heroin Within 500 Feet of a Park (Von Neida Park) (2nd degree).
- Jose A. Then-Ruiz, 22. Conspiracy (2nd degree), Distribution of Heroin (1st degree) and Distribution of Heroin Within 500 Feet of a Park (Von Neida Park) (2nd degree).
- Jasmine A. Vallar, 36. Conspiracy (2nd degree), Maintaining a Heroin Production Facility (1st degree), Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute (1st degree) and Money Laundering (3rd degree).
It is alleged that Lopez was dealing large quantities of heroin in North Camden with the assistance of Ramos and Then-Ruiz. Wilson Fortuna allegedly was a supplier for Lopez who obtained heroin from a heroin mill that Jose Fortuna and Vallar allegedly maintained inside their residence in the 300 block of North 41st Street in Camden.
“We’ve been working around the clock with all levels of law enforcement to arrest major heroin dealers in Camden who are sparking violence in the city and fueling the deadly epidemic of heroin abuse across the region,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We must continue to do everything in our power to return the streets of our cities to the law-abiding public.”
“By taking down heroin mills and wholesale dealers, we are constricting the supply of deadly heroin in Camden,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend our partners in the State Police and DEA for their exemplary investigation, which combined undercover drug purchases and surveillance to track the heroin being sold by these alleged dealers and seize nearly a kilo of it.”
“Our detectives and undercover troopers working to take down drug dealers are performing a great service for our state. It’s not something that everyone is cut out for, but I am very proud of their results. Every dealer they put in jail potentially represents fewer lives lost to overdoses, and less violence on New Jersey streets,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge for DEA’s New Jersey Division said, “To be able to dismantle a drug trafficking organization distributing wholesale quantities of heroin is a major victory for not just the citizens of Camden, but for all of southern New Jersey. The DEA will continue to join forces with the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police to combat these major drug violators.”
Lopez is charged in connection with two alleged sales of first-degree quantities of heroin to an undercover officer. On July 24, 2013, he allegedly sold more than five ounces of heroin to the undercover officer at a location next to Von Neida Park in Camden. On Oct. 10, 2013, Lopez allegedly sold nearly nine ounces of heroin to the undercover officer at the same location. The heroin for the second transaction was allegedly obtained from Wilson Fortuna immediately prior to the sale. Ramos and Then-Ruiz allegedly assisted Lopez with the transaction, and all three men were arrested directly after the sale by members of the State Police and DEA who staked out the site. Lopez allegedly tried to flee, running out of his shoes and dropping a cell phone in the process.
On the night of the arrests, detectives and agents executed search warrants at the home of Lopez, the home of Wilson Fortuna, and the home shared by Jose Fortuna and Jasmine Vallar. At the last location in the 300 block of North 41st Street, the investigators found an alleged heroin production facility in the basement containing a steel hydraulic press, 12 containers of a dietary supplement allegedly used as a cutting agent, scales, tools used for cutting and packaging, a currency counter, and $30,000 in cash. They also found a plastic bag containing three-quarters of a kilo of heroin at that location.
Deputy Attorney General Julia S. Glass presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Barile of the Specialized Crimes Bureau also worked on the investigation.
The lead detectives for the New Jersey State Police are Detective Sgt. Erik Hoffman and Detective Ricardo Diaz of the Crime Suppression South Unit. The lead agent for the DEA is Special Agent David McNamara. The other partners that were critical to the success of this investigation were the DEA High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Joint Camden Task Force and the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office.
First-degree crimes carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison. The first-degree possession and distribution charges carry a fine of up to $500,000, while maintaining a heroin production facility carries a fine of up to $750,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Camden County, where the defendants will be arraigned at a later date.