Major fentanyl and heroin mill in irvington taken down

IRVINGTON, NJ — On July 9, N.J. Attorney Gen. Gurbir S. Grewal announced the arrests of four persons in the takedown of a major fentanyl and heroin mill in Irvington that distributed its narcotics in wax folds stamped with the same brand names that have been linked to 93 overdoses, including 33 deaths. Approximately 70,000 individual doses and an additional four kilograms of suspected fentanyl and heroin — with a total street value of more than half a million dollars — were seized, along with two handguns and $165,526 in cash.

The arrests were made in an ongoing investigation by the New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force and Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, with assistance from other area law enforcement agencies.

George Encarnacion, 28, of Newark, 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 Jonathan Perez-Payano, 28, of Newark, and Nelfy Ulerio, 19, of Irvington. The three men were arrested the week of July 1, when the investigating agencies executed search warrants at the mill and other locations. All three 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,” Grewal said. “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,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende said. “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,” NJSP Col. Patrick Callahan said. “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 the search warrant: more than 1,400 bricks, consisting of 50 wax folds each, of suspected heroin/fentanyl, plus hundreds of loose wax folds of heroin/fentanyl, with an approximate street value of $350,000; approximately four kilograms of suspected fentanyl or fentanyl mixed with heroin, with an approximate street value of $200,000; a handgun with large capacity 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; and 22 rubber ink stamps bearing different brands — 12 of the brand names on the stamps are the same brands that have been linked to 93 overdoses, including 33 fatal overdoses.

The brand names on the seized rubber stamps that have been associated with overdoses are: Dunkin Donuts, Donald Trump, Gorilla Pimp, Paid in Full, Pink Panther, AT&T, Hennessy, American Greed, The Last Dragon, Money Heist, Maybach and Reebok.

“We know that our state is home to far too many people struggling with addiction. 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,” Grewal said. “If you encounter any of these stamps, please notify law enforcement. 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, which are illegal in New Jersey.

These charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.