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32 Charged Following Narcotics Trafficking Investigation in Ocean County; Four Remain At-Large

Ocean County

A 16-month narcotics trafficking investigation including multiple county and local law enforcement agencies dubbed “Operation Finished Business,” culminated with charges being filed against 32 people connected to a large-scale heroin distribution ring in the Bayshore region, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

“This investigation deals a critical blow to a narcotics trafficking network that has plagued the towns and neighborhoods in the Bayshore region for a long time.  The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Unit and Bayshore Narcotics Task Force are committed to ending the epidemic of fatal overdoses and opioid abuse that is unfortunately so prevalent in our community today. Thanks to the excellent work by this team of investigators, the flow of these deadly drugs into our community has been significantly disrupted. Heroin, and specifically heroin laced with fentanyl, represents an unacceptable threat to lives in this community,” Gramiccioni said.

“Operation Finished Business” resulted in the arrests of 28 of the 32 people charged in connection with the investigation.  Four individuals remain at-large and are considered fugitives from justice.

The investigation revealed that members of this heroin trafficking network sold substantial quantities of fentanyl-laced heroin on a daily basis to members of the public at locations throughout the Bayshore region. It is estimated that the operation pumped out 20,000 bags of heroin monthly that carried a street value of approximately $200,000 to $400,000. 

The network was run from multiple homes and apartments across Monmouth and Ocean Counties, while heroin supply was routinely replenished with trips to Newark.

Searches pursuant to warrants at locations in Monmouth, Ocean, and Essex Counties have resulted in the seizure of 3,200 bags of heroin, approximately $12,000 cash, eight vehicles, two motorcycles and one trailer all believed to be used in connection with the illegal sale of narcotics.

According to documents filed in this case and information developed during this investigation: Defendant Anthony Distaulo, 33, of Jackson, acted as the leader of this heroin trafficking network. Police charged him with first degree Leader of a Narcotics Trafficking Network, second-degree Conspiracy, first-degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance with intent to Distribute, first-degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, and third-degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. 

According to officials, Distaulo is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township awaiting a pretrial detention hearing scheduled for April 22, 2019, before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James J. McGann.

While Distaulo acted as the leader of the heroin trafficking ring, investigators learned that eight others conspired with Distaulo and acted as accomplices in their efforts to distribute narcotics throughout the Bayshore: Joseph Bartucci, 32, of Keansburg; Anthony Distaulo’s mother Mechelle Distaulo, 52, of Brick; Kate Ellis, 28, of Jackson; James Granberg, 42, of Keyport; Khalil Hill a/k/a “Drama”, 35, of Newark; Kayleigh Leonard, 30, of Jackson; Vincent Mielnicki, 39, of Union Beach; and Matthew Rowland, 34, of Red Bank. 

These eight individuals are each charged with second degree Conspiracy, first degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance with Intent to Distribute, first degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, and third degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance.  Bartucci, Ellis, Granberg, Hill, Leonard, Mielnicki, and Rowland are being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution awaiting pretrial detention hearings on April 22, 2019 before Judge McGann. Mechelle Distaulo remains at-large at this time.

The investigation also led to charges against 23 people who were purchasing narcotics from one or more of the distributors of this heroin trafficking network: Brianne Benedetto, 29, of Millstone; Barbara Bryk, 51, and her husband Randy Bryk, 54, both of the Port Monmouth section of Middletown; Keith Chanley, 28, of South Amboy; Matthew Demko, 38, of Keyport; Nicole Fox, 33, of Keansburg; Eric Greer, 55, of Morganville;

Kyle Groat, 31, of Middletown; Ashley Groc, 25, of South Amboy; Emily Heun, 34, of the Leonardo section of Middletown;

David Isaksen, 42, of Leonardo section of Middletown; Jacquelin Kelly, 53, of Keansburg; Veronica Lapsley, 42, of Keansburg; Sean LaFata, 35, of Keyport;

Brittany Matias, 23, of Port Monmouth section of Middletown; DebbieJo Mezzacappa, 29, of Leonardo section of Middletown; Ranya Mobarak, 31, of Hazlet; Daniel Notaroberto, 32, of Middletown; Anthony Pane a/k/a “Bug”, 28, of Hazlet; Anthony Schiano, 30, of Keyport; Alfred Valli, 54, of Middletown;

Kurt Westendorf, 60, of Keansburg; and

Melissa Whiteman, 30, of Hazlet. 

All 23 individuals were each charged with third degree Conspiracy to Possess a Controlled Dangerous Substance and third degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. Benedetto, Isaksen, and Mezzacappa remain at-large at this time.

The investigation into this narcotics trafficking network remains active and ongoing.  Photographs of the individuals charged are attached to this news release to assist members of the public in ascertaining whether they possess information regarding the activities of these individuals. 

Anyone with information concerning the any of the individuals charged, or the whereabouts of the defendants still at-large, should contact Detective Adam Mendes of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-800-533-7443 ext. 4832.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at  Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.