TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a senior correction officer at Northern State Prison in Newark, N.J., was indicted today on charges that he smuggled the deadly opioid fentanyl and marijuana to an inmate in the prison in exchange for money.
Roberto Reyes-Jackson, 28, of Irvington, N.J., was indicted today by a state grand jury on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, and bribery in official matters, all second-degree counts, as well as third-degree distribution of fentanyl and fourth-degree distribution of marijuana. Reyes-Jackson has been suspended from his position as a senior correction officer as a result of the allegations.
On one or more occasions between September and December 2016, Reyes-Jackson allegedly smuggled multiple doses of a powder compound laced with the super-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl to an inmate in the prison. The fentanyl was packaged like heroin in single-dose glassine folds or “bags” bearing a “panda face” logo on them. Reyes-Jackson also allegedly smuggled a small quantity of marijuana to the inmate. The alleged smuggling came to light after prison staff discovered a bag containing marijuana and two small bags containing fentanyl – which was initially suspected to be heroin – in the inmate’s cell in December 2016. A subsequent search of the cell revealed additional marijuana and suspected heroin, which lab testing later revealed to be fentanyl.
Further investigation by the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau revealed that Reyes-Jackson allegedly accepted bribes in excess of $200 from the inmate’s girlfriend in return for smuggling the drugs into prison. The inmate, in turn, allegedly distributed the drugs to other inmates, who paid him by having friends or relatives outside the prison wire money to his girlfriend. The inmate and his girlfriend are not identified in the indictment.
Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin: a dose as small as 2 to 3 milligrams can be fatal. Fentanyl has been responsible for a growing death toll in New Jersey, where there were 417 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2015, and according to preliminary figures, over 800 fentanyl deaths in 2016. Fentanyl is typically mixed with heroin for sale on the street, or is sold in powder compounds or pills disguised as heroin or oxycodone. Fentanyl is now found in about 30 percent of the heroin specimens tested by the New Jersey State Police forensic laboratories. Given the tiny size of a lethal dose, drug users are dying because dealers are careless about how much fentanyl they put in such mixes and pills.
“By allegedly smuggling fentanyl into prison, Reyes-Jackson put inmates and his fellow correction officers at grave risk,” said Attorney General Porrino. “People are dying every day because drug dealers carelessly mix this super-potent opioid with heroin or disguise it as heroin or oxycodone, and medics and police have overdosed through mere contact with fentanyl in the course of their duties. By allegedly introducing this deadly drug into a secure prison environment, Reyes-Jackson showed a callous disregard for his duty and the lives of those he worked with every day.”
“Any type of prison smuggling is a serious issue because of the threat to security inside the facility, but this case is particularly egregious because Reyes-Jackson allegedly supplied an inmate with one of the deadliest drugs fueling the opioid epidemic,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work closely with the Department of Corrections to ensure that anyone who corruptly compromises safety in our correctional facilities will face justice.”
New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary M. Lanigan said: “The overwhelming majority of New Jersey Department of Corrections staff is hard-working and honest. However, a corrupt employee can undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system. Every member of our staff knows that if you act in an unlawful manner, then you should not be working for the NJDOC. Furthermore, you are subject to the legal ramifications of your behavior.”
Deputy Attorney General Peter Baker presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the investigators, detectives and attorneys who conducted the investigation for the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau North Unit. Senior Investigators Patrick Sesulka and Principal Investigator Edward Soltys conducted the investigation for the Department of Corrections.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The charges of official misconduct and bribery carry a mandatory minimum term of five years of parole ineligibility. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Essex County, where Reyes-Jackson will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charges.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report public corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Defense Attorney: Unknown.
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