Six Camden residents were indicted Friday for allegedly operating a high-tech heroin mill and distributing the drug in bulk.
The charges resulted from a joint state and federal law enforcement investigation dubbed “Operation China White.”
Prosecutors said Andy Lopez, 29, was dealing large quantities of heroin with the assistance of Ruben Ramos, 25, and Jose Then-Ruiz, 22.
Wilson Fortuna, 24, allegedly supplied Lopez with heroin from a heroin mill that Jose Fortuna, 38, and Jasmine Vallar, 36, are accused of maintaining inside their Camden home.
The reputed drug ring was dismantled after Lopez sold heroin to undercover officers during two separate incidents last year, according to investigators. On the second occasion, in October 2013, Ramos and Then-Ruiz allegedly assisted Lopez with the transaction.
State police and DEA agents arrested all three men immediately after the alleged sale. Prosecutors said Lopez tried to flee, running out of his shoes and dropping a cell phone in the process.
On the night of the arrests, investigators also executed search warrants at the homes of Lopez and Wilson Fortuna, as well as at the residence shared by Jose Fortuna and Vallar.
In the basement of the latter home, located on the 300 block of North 41st Street, authorities allegedly uncovered a heroin production facility. Prosecutors said evidence recovered included a steel hydraulic press, 12 containers of a dietary supplement suspected to have been used as a cutting agent and tools used to cut and package narcotics.
Investigators said they also found a plastic bag containing three-quarters of a kilo of heroin, a currency counter and $30,000 in cash.
“To be able to dismantle a drug trafficking organization distributing wholesale quantities of heroin is a major victory for not just the citizens of Camden, but for all of southern New Jersey,” Carl Kotowski, special agent in charge for the DEA’s New Jersey Division, said in a statement.
All six suspects are charged with conspiracy. Jose Fortuna and Vallar are both charged with maintaining a heroin production facility, possessing heroin with the intent to distribute and money laundering.
Lopez, Ramos, Then-Ruiz and Wilson Fortuna are each charged with heroin distribution and related drug offenses. Lopez faces an additional charge of resisting arrest.
“We’ve been working around the clock with all levels of law enforcement to arrest major heroin dealers in Camden who are sparking violence in the city and fueling the deadly epidemic of heroin abuse across the region,” New Jersey acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement. “We must continue to do everything in our power to return the streets of our cities to the law-abiding public.”