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“Operation Checkmate” Defendant Sentenced to NJ State Prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine

Ocean County

By: Najla Alexander 

Authorities in Ocean County announced that on February 2, Mark Capichana, 56, of Keyport, was sentenced by the Honorable Dina M. Vicari, J.S.C., to seven years in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Conspiracy to Possess Cocaine in an Amount Greater than Five Ounces with Intent to Distribute.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said additionally, Judge Puglisi sentenced Capichana to seven years NJSP as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity.AdOfficials stated the sentences will run consecutively. Capichana pled guilty to both charges before Judge Lisa A. Puglisi, J.S.C., on March 13, 2023.

“Operation Checkmate” was a four-month-long cooperative, multi-jurisdictional investigation conducted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, United States Drug Enforcement Administration – High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Group 5, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, and New Jersey State Police - Trafficking Central Unit, in concert with many other state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, officials said.

Authorities say the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force managed and directed three simultaneous multi-agency investigations into high-level cocaine distribution in Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex Counties, as well as New York City.

During the course of these investigations, officials say, approximately 50 additional law enforcement personnel were assigned to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force on a full-time basis.

Multiple agencies – within and outside Ocean County - assisted in every aspect of all three investigations.

According to officials, the investigations, identified as “Operation Checkmate,” began in July 2021 and concluded in October 2021.

The three cocaine networks were responsible for the import of more than three kilograms of cocaine per week into the Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex County areas, officials said.

Officials stated through sophisticated surveillance methods and undercover operatives, “Operation Checkmate” was successful in disrupting and dismantling illicit controlled dangerous substance (CDS) distribution activities in these three counties, as well as New York City.AdOn October 26, 2021, “Operation Checkmate” closed with the apprehension of 24 individuals for various offenses involving the distribution of controlled dangerous substances, officials say. 

Additionally, 24 search warrants were executed, resulting in the seizure of more than four kilograms of cocaine, over 15 pounds of marijuana, over $650,000 in United States currency, seven firearms (three handguns, three “ghost guns,” and one pistol grip shotgun), ten vehicles, and additional illegal narcotics.

Authorities say on October 26, 2021, Detectives executed court-authorized search warrants at Capichana’s residence in Keyport and a business operated by Capichana, also located in Keyport.

As a result, according to officials, law enforcement seized – in combination from the residence and the business – approximately 1,455 grams of cocaine as well as $166,000 in United States currency.

Capichana was transported to the Ocean County Jail and later released due to New Jersey Bail Reform, officials said.