Blackwood Man Indicted in Massive Heroin Ring
Thirty-six men and women were indicted this week, including Blackwood's Calvin J. Lewis, as part of Operation Billboard, which targeted heroin distribution in Camden.
A Cherry Hill man was a top lieutenant and a Blackwood man a street-level dealer for a network of heroin traffickers operating in Camden’s Cooper Lanning and Bergen Square neighborhoods, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said Friday after unsealing indictments against more than 30 individuals connected to the alleged criminal organization.
Joseph Rivera, 28, of Cherry Hill, also known as “Baby,” was one of six so-called case workers, or upper-level managers, who dealt with street dealers while insulating the network’s top two men, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Blackwood resident Calvin J. Lewis, aka "CJ," 23, was one of the organization's "trappers," authorities said. Trappers make hand-to-hand street-level drug deals.
Rivera and Lewis were among 36 people arrested and indicted in connection with the long-term Operation Billboard investigation.
The busts, which began with arrests on May 30, 2012, targeted a heroin network in the heart of Camden. Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said the network involved members of the Ñetas and Latin Kings street gangs.
Between all the dealers, the network raked in tens of thousands of dollars per week, Chiesa said.
Rivera and the other case workers were responsible for territory mostly in the southern part of Cooper Lanning and the northern part of Bergen Square, around 4th and Royden streets, West and Royden streets, Royden and Henry streets, and 4th and Spruce streets, according to the attorney general.
There, Rivera and others would distribute bundles of heroin—packages stamped with brand names that included “A+,” “Major League,” “Hot Party,” “El Tiger,” and “Ice Cream”—to lower-level managers and dealers, authorities said. Rivera and his fellow case managers were in the area, but rarely at the spots where individual deals took place, according to authorities.
“We sent investigators into the area surrounding 4th and Royden Streets because it has been a hotbed of violence, including daytime shootings,” said Chiesa in a statement. “By identifying this large, well-organized criminal enterprise and targeting the organization from top to bottom with a first-degree racketeering indictment, we’re taking strong aim at the drug dealing that is fueling violence and destroying the lives of residents in this section of Camden. These defendants will face lengthy prison sentences without parole if convicted of the charges against them.”
Rivera, like every other defendant in the case, faces first-degree racketeering and second-degree conspiracy charges, with the racketeering charge alone carrying 10 to 20 years in state prison and a $200,000 fine, should Rivera be convicted.
Along with the dealers and managers, a Merchantville man was indicted for being an associate of the ring.
Vicente Porrata, 47, also known as “Lluvia,” was one of several associates of the network indicted. He allegedly distributed heroin for the network through Audubon, Haddon Township and Camden City, according to the indictment, and he was also charged with money laundering. Porrata faces 10 to 20 years in prison on the distribution charge, and a possible fine of half a million dollars for the alleged money laundering.
Two men alone ran the entire network, Chiesa said—Noel Gonzalez, 43, of Camden, also known as “Noel Ripoll” and a reputed member of the Ñetas, and his alleged partner, Michael Rivera, 29, of Camden, aka “Bute.”
Both Gonzalez and Michael Rivera are charged with the first-degree crime of leader of a narcotics trafficking network, and each face life in prison if convicted.
When arrests in the case began back on May 30, 2012, investigators executed search warrants at five homes, including Gonzalez’s Collings Road home, which isn’t far from Yorkship Elementary School in Camden’s Fairview section.
The arrests and searches netted roughly three-quarters of a kilogram of heroin, $52,000 in cash, $20,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency and a .40-caliber handgun, authorities said. Eight vehicles were also seized in the investigation.
The indictments were handed down in Mercer County, but the entire case has been assigned to Camden County.
Indicted in Operation Billboard were:
- Noel Gonzalez, 43, of Camden, aka “Noel Ripoll.”
- Michael Rivera, 29, of Camden, aka “Bute.”
- William Alvarez, 36, of Camden, aka “June” and “Beatle.”
- Angel L. Martinez, 28, of Camden, aka “Gunz,” an alleged Ñetas gang member.
- Joseph Rivera, 28, of Cherry Hill, aka “Baby.”
- Samuel Serrano, 25, of Camden, aka “Sammy.”
- Fred Alvarado, 47, of Camden, aka “Freddy,” an alleged Latin Kings gang member.
- Jonathan Santiago, 32, of Camden, aka “Shorty” and “Chico.”
- Wilkins Castro, 33, of Camden.
- Cindy M. Scanes, 27, of Camden, aka “Fat Cindy.”
- Jonathan Roman, 23, of Camden, aka “Papo.”
- JessMarie Ramirez, 31, of Camden, aka “Jessie.”
- Michael Ortiz, 20, of Camden, aka “Mikey.”
- Edguardo Ortiz, 21, of Camden, aka “Bebe.”
- Christopher Vasquez, 21, of Camden.
- George Rivera, 28, of Camden, aka “Ant,” “Anthony,” and “Angel.”
- Giovanni Mercado, 21, of Camden.
- Miguel Bello, 21, of Pennsauken.
- Victoria Ventura, 24, of Camden.
- Timothy Peters, 19, of Camden, aka “White Boy.”
- Luis Vazquez, 20, of Camden, aka “Lil Lou
- William Rivera, 31, of Camden, aka “Butch.”
- Hassan Torres, 25, of Camden, aka “Haz.”
- Jose O. Diaz, 20, of Camden.
- Julio Medina, 22, of Camden, aka “Juli.”
- Victor Serrano, 20, of Camden, aka “Bobo.”
- Juan Santana, 53, of Camden, aka “Chino.”
- Calvin J. Lewis, 23, of Blackwood, aka “CJ”
- Sebastian Cordero, 20, of Camden, aka “Sab.”
- Jonathan Vasquez, 19, of Camden.
- Dewayne Shines, 21, of Camden, aka “D-Block.”
- Vicente Porrata, 47, of Merchantville, aka “Lluvia.”
- Virgilio Vargas, Jr., 25, of Camden, aka “June.”
- Gregorio Laboy, Jr., 22, of Camden, aka “Cono.”
- Luis Rodriguez, 53, of Camden, aka “Miro.”
- Luz Ripoll, 39, of Philadelphia.