TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a truck driver pleaded guilty today to trafficking 64 kilos of heroin and 10 kilos of cocaine into New Jersey. The drugs were seized from his tractor-trailer last August by the New Jersey State Police on Interstate 78 in Warren County.
The seizure by the New Jersey State Police Mobile Safe Freight Unit ranks as one of the largest seizures of heroin by law enforcement in U.S. history.
Henry A. Cruz Ventura, 40, of Los Angeles, Calif., pleaded guilty today to first-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute before Superior Court Judge H. Matthew Curry in Warren County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Ventura be sentenced to 10 years in state prison. Ventura has been held in the Warren County Jail since his arrest on Aug. 23, 2016, with bail set at $250,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23.
Deputy Attorney General Norma Garcia prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. The charges stem from an investigation by the State Police Transportation Safety Bureau, Mobile Safe Freight Unit -Tactical North.
“The 64 kilos of heroin seized from Ventura’s tractor-trailer could have generated several million doses of heroin once cut and packaged for distribution,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Thanks to the vigilance of Trooper Agens, this deadly cargo never reached the streets of our communities, and undoubtedly lives were saved that would have been lost to overdoses. This plea keeps Ventura in prison where he belongs.”
“Seizures on this scale have a major and immediate impact in cutting off the supply line of these deadly and corrosive drugs in New Jersey and the region,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll continue to target large-scale heroin traffickers as well as those who run the pill mills that are fueling addiction by illegally supplying the black market for prescription opiates.”
“The positive effects of a narcotics seizure of this magnitude can be measured in a variety of ways, which include a reduction in violence associated with dealing, the disruption of a major trafficking network, and almost certainly a life being saved,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Trooper James Agens earned the highest award given by the New Jersey State Police for his extraordinary drug interdiction efforts in 2016, and he is commended along with the Mobile Safe Freight Unit for their hard work and dedication.”
Ventura was arrested on Aug. 23, 2016, after a member of the State Police Mobile Safe Freight Unit stopped his tractor-trailer on I-78 in Greenwich Township to conduct a routine commercial vehicle safety inspection. Trooper James Agens, who made the stop, noted suspicious behavior by Ventura and irregularities with respect to the tractor-trailer and its cargo. Trooper Agens and Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Mistretta, who responded to assist, had the rig moved to the Greenwich Weigh Station, where they obtained consent to search it. When they opened four boxes that were inconsistent with the legitimate cargo listed in the shipping manifest, they found 64 kilograms of heroin and 10 kilograms of cocaine.
Attorney General Porrino commended Trooper Agens and Sgt. 1st Class Mistretta for making the arrest and seizure for the State Police Transportation Safety Bureau, Mobile Safe Freight Unit - Tactical North. Trooper Agens was named 2016 Trooper of the Year by the New Jersey State Police for his outstanding contributions to drug interdiction efforts by the State Police and its partners. In addition to the seizure involving Ventura, Trooper Agens was responsible for the seizure of 15 kilos of heroin that he located hidden in the axles of a tractor-trailer during a commercial safety inspection on I-78 on May 12, 2016.
Christopher Perry, Esq., Tormey Law Firm LLC, Hackensack, N.J.
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