The leaders of a massive drug trafficking ring involving more than $50,000 worth of heroin and fentanyl are facing lengthy stints in prison after an eight month investigation thwarted the scheme.
The Atlantic City Task Force originally busted Richard Michilena, 26, and Bolivar Delacruz, 39, in April, 2015, following a joint investigation between New Jersey state law enforcement and local officials in Atlantic City. Officials said the investigation is part of a broader strategy to stem the flow of heroin throughout the state. The operation trafficked more than 30,000 doses of heroin cut with fentanyl, a deadly pain killer known to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, reports New Jersey 101.5.
The pair plead guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute and will likely face at least a 10 year sentence.
“By supplying large quantities of heroin for distribution in two of the counties hardest hit by the opiate epidemic, these two men were profiting from addiction and death,” Christopher Perrino, New Jersey attorney general, said Monday, according to NJ 101.5.
The distribution ring primarily operated in Atlantic County and Ocean County, areas suffering record overdose and death rates from the substance. Ocean County in particular is consumed by heroin overdose fatalities, which may eclipse 200 in 2016, though the numbers are not yet final. That would be roughly one heroin death every 43 hours.
Police estimate the street value of the seized heroin at roughly $52,000.
“Strategic investigations such as this one save lives in two ways,” Elie Honig, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said Monday, according to NJ 101.5. “By disrupting the supply of deadly heroin and by reducing the violence inevitably associated with street-level dealing.”
GOP Gov. Chris Christie declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis Jan. 17 in New Jersey, which has a death rate from heroin higher than the national average. There are roughly 128,000 heroin addicts in the state and health experts fear that number is likely growing. Heroin deaths spiked 22 percent between 2014 and 2015 and the state doubled the national drug overdose death rate with 1,600 fatalities in 2015.
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