NJ Attorney General Announces Takedown of Heroin, Fentanyl Mill in Irvington Township

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the arrests of four persons in the takedown of a major fentanyl and heroin mill in Irvington, N.J., that distributed its narcotics in wax folds stamped with the same brand names that have been linked to 93 overdoses, including 33 deaths.

Officials say approximately 70,000 individual doses and an additional four kilograms of suspected fentanyl and heroin – with a total street value of over half a million dollars – were seized, along with two handguns and $165,526 in cash.

According to officials Mr. George Encarnacion, 28, of Newark, N.J., allegedly ran the opioid mill, which was set up in a second-floor apartment at 214 Eastern Parkway in Irvington. He allegedly operated the mill with associates working under him, including Mr. Jonathan Perez-Payano, 28, of Newark, and Mr. Nelfy Ulerio, 19, of Irvington.

Officials say the three men were arrested last week when the investigating agencies executed search warrants at the mill and other locations. They face first-degree charges of maintaining a narcotics production facility and possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Another associate, Steffany Castillo-Candalari, 28, of Newark, was arrested and charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

“This is another victory for our Opioid Enforcement Task Force and another case where we undoubtedly saved lives by stopping countless doses of fentanyl and heroin from reaching drug users, including doses stamped with the same brand names as drugs linked to 33 deaths,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will continue to pursue this proactive and collaborative strategy – spearheaded by our new State Police-led task force and the Division of Criminal Justice – to take down drug mills and other major drug sources and choke off the supply line of deadly opioids coming into our communities. I thank all of our task force partners and I commend the investigators who are diligently pursuing all leads to identify major fentanyl and heroin suppliers and bring them to justice.”

“When you combine the drugs already cut and packaged for distribution with the four kilograms packaged in bulk, we seized well over 100,000 doses of heroin and fentanyl at this drug mill – and that is just what they had on hand this one day,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Clearly this was an extremely high-volume mill that, thanks to our collaborative investigation, will no longer be fueling the opioid epidemic and all of the misery and death it is causing in our communities.”

“As a result of this cooperative investigation, over 70,000 lethal doses of narcotics will never make it to our neighborhoods,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “The Opioid Enforcement Task Force is doing exactly what it was designed to do—choking off the flow of lethal batches of heroin and fentanyl from a single source, arresting those responsible, and more importantly, saving lives in the process.”

Investigators seized the following items when they executed a search warrant at the mill located on the second floor of 214 Eastern Parkway, Irvington

over 1,400 bricks (consisting of 50 wax folds each) of suspected heroin/fentanyl, plus hundreds of loose wax folds of heroin/fentanyl (approximate street value of $350,000)

approximately four kilograms of suspected fentanyl or fentanyl mixed with heroin (approximate street value of $200,000)

handgun with large capacity (30-round) magazine

hundreds of empty wax folds

other packaging and milling material including 17 grinders, two-kilogram presses, scales, sifters, boxes of tape, mixing agents and other mill paraphernalia

22 rubber ink stamps bearing different brands. Twelve of the brand names on the stamps are the same brands that have been linked to 93 overdoses, including 33 fatal overdoses and 60 non-fatal overdoses.

The brand names on the seized rubber stamps that have been associated with overdoses are posted with this press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.

“We know that our state is home to far too many people struggling with addiction,” said Attorney General Grewal. “But we ask that no matter what challenges you’re facing in your life, if you see heroin stamped with these markings, please, please stay away from it. Your next fix could be your last.”

“If you encounter any of these stamps, please notify law enforcement,” continued Attorney General Grewal. “Many departments and County Prosecutors across our state allow individuals to turn in drugs and paraphernalia, no questions asked.”

Investigators executed a search warrant at Encarnacion’s apartment in Newark, where they seized $137,000 in cash, 5 grams of heroin, a scale, and packaging materials. They also executed a search warrant at the apartment shared by Perez-Payano and Castillo-Candalari, which is in the same apartment building, where they seized $28,526, a money counter, and a stolen handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Deputy Attorneys General Heather Hausleben and Angel Hector are the lead prosecutors for this investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis and Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez.

Detective Jason Wiswesser is the case agent for this investigation for the New Jersey State Police Gangs and Organized Crime North Unit, under the supervision of Detective Sgt. Hugo Ribeiro. Sgt. Miguel Holguin participated in the investigation for the NJSP Regional Operations Intelligence Center. The Opioid Enforcement Task Force is led by Lieutenant Larry Williams of the Intelligence and Criminal Enterprise Section.

The New Jersey State Police Trafficking North Unit, Criminal Investigation Office, Field Operations Section, TEAMS North Unit, K-9 Unit, Hazardous Material Response Unit, and Crime Scene Investigation North Unit participated in the investigation.

Attorney General Grewal thanked all of the agencies participating in the Opioid Enforcement Task Force and all of the other agencies that assisted in this investigation.

This investigation is part of a broader strategy being implemented by the Opioid Enforcement Task Force and Division of Criminal Justice that reflects a shift in how the state is investigating and prosecuting opioid cases. Investigations and intelligence show that, in some cases, a large number of overdose deaths can be traced back to a single source, often a supplier who indiscriminately mixes fentanyl with heroin. By focusing on identifying and shutting down these sources, the state is leveraging its resources to have maximum impact in choking off the supply line of deadly opioids and reducing overdoses and fatalities.

In March, the Opioid Enforcement Task Force, Division of Criminal Justice, and task force partners arrested Timothy Guest, 45, of Irvington, and two other men on charges that they were operating a major opioid mill out of a luxury apartment in Harrison, N.J. The investigating agencies seized approximately 32,500 individual doses and four kilos of fentanyl and heroin, along with rubber ink stamps bearing the same brand names that had been linked to 227 overdoses, including 84 deaths. Guest and his co-defendants face pending charges, including a first-degree charge of maintaining a narcotics production facility.

In targeting the most deadly opioid packaging facilities and sources of supply, the Opioid Enforcement Task Force works with the NJSP Regional Operations Intelligence Center. In addition to NJSP members, the Task Force is comprised of task force officers from local, county and state partners. The Task Force also works cooperatively with the DEA and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations to further its mission.

The following is the full list of charges filed against those arrested:

George Encarnacion

  • 1st degree Maintaining a Narcotics Production Facility
  • 1st-degree Possession of Heroin with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Conspiracy
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Fentanyl with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Firearm While Committing a Drug Offense
  • 2nd degree Money Laundering
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Heroin
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Fentanyl
  • 3rd-degree Possession within 1000 feet of Grove Street School
  • 4th-degree Possession of Large Capacity Magazine
  • 4th-degree Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Jonathan Perez-Payano

  • 1st degree Maintaining a Narcotics Production Facility
  • 1st-degree Possession of Heroin with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Conspiracy
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Fentanyl with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Firearm While Committing a Drug Offense
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Heroin
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Fentanyl
  • 3rd-degree Possession within 1000 feet of Grove Street School
  • 3rd degree Receiving Stolen Property (Firearm)
  • 3rd degree Money Laundering
  • 4th-degree Possession of Large Capacity Magazine
  • 4th-degree Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Nelfy Ulerio:

  • 1st degree Maintaining a Narcotics Production Facility
  • 1st-degree Possession of Heroin with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Conspiracy
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Fentanyl with the Intent to Distribute
  • 2nd-degree Possession of Firearm While Committing a Drug Offense
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Heroin
  • 3rd-degree Possession of Fentanyl
  • 3rd-degree Possession within 1000 feet of Grove Street School
  • 4th-degree Possession of Large Capacity Magazine
  • 4th-degree Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Steffany Castillo-Candalari

  • 2nd-degree Conspiracy
  • 3rd degree Receiving Stolen Property (Firearm)
  • 3rd degree Money Laundering

Encarnacion, Perez-Payano, and Ulerio were held in the Essex County Jail pending detention hearings scheduled for today. Castillo-Candalari was released after being processed on the charges against her.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree charge of maintaining a narcotics production facility carries a mandatory minimum term without parole equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed and a fine of up to $750,000.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, or $35,000 for the drug charge. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.