North Carolina Man Admits Heroin Distribution and Firearms Offenses
TRENTON, N.J. – A Raleigh, North Carolina, man with ties to Trenton admitted today to distributing heroin and unlawfully possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Dennis Cheston Jr., a/k/a “Beans,” 39, pleaded guilty by videoconference before Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to a third superseding indictment that charged him with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin (Count Five) and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Nine).
In October 2018, Cheston and 26 other members identified as having participated in a large drug trafficking conspiracy operating in Trenton were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute heroin. Cheston and others also were charged with additional firearms offenses. On Feb. 27, 2020, a grand jury returned a 10-count third superseding indictment charging Cheston and eight other defendants with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and various other drug and firearm offenses. Of the 26 defendants charged in the original criminal complaint, Cheston is the 23rd defendant to plead guilty. The charges in the third superseding indictment and the criminal complaint are currently pending against the three remaining defendants, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From October 2017 to October 2018, law enforcement officers conducted an investigation of a large narcotics conspiracy that operated in Trenton and which sought to profit from the distribution of heroin and numerous other controlled substances. Through the interception of telephone calls and text messages pursuant to court-authorized wiretap orders, controlled purchases of heroin, the use of confidential sources of information, and other investigative techniques, law enforcement learned that Jakir Taylor and Jerome Roberts obtained regular supplies of hundreds of “bricks” of heroin from defendant David Antonio, whom they referred to as “Papi.”
Telephone and text message communications intercepted pursuant to the wiretap orders also revealed that, on multiple occasions during the investigation, Cheston – a convicted felon who has ties to Trenton – traveled from North Carolina to Trenton and obtained quantities of heroin from Taylor, which Taylor had obtained from Antonio. During one intercepted telephone call between Taylor and Cheston, Cheston advised Taylor that the heroin bearing an ink stamp that read “Top Secret,” was high quality, and that his customers liked it. During the course of these drug transactions and additional intercepted communications between Taylor and Cheston, Cheston also agreed to travel from North Carolina to Trenton and supply Taylor with multiple firearms in exchange for future supplies of heroin. On Sept. 8, 2018, based on the intercepted communications and other evidence obtained during the investigation, law enforcement tracked Cheston’s travel from North Carolina to Trenton, where he was arrested upon his arrival as he exited the Trenton Transit Center. During a subsequent search of Cheston’s backpack, law enforcement recovered a nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson handgun, which Cheston had agreed to provide to Taylor.
The drug distribution count to which Cheston pleaded guilty carries a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a maximum fine of $1 million. The felon-in-possession count to which Cheston pleaded guilty carries a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. Cheston’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Trenton Resident Agency, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski; special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Newark Division, Trenton Satellite Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley; officers of the Princeton Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter; officers of the Ewing Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police John P. Stemler III; officers of the Burlington Township Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Bruce Painter; and detectives of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Scott A. Coffina, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked officers of the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Angelo Onofri; officers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff John A. Kemler; and members of the New Jersey State Board of Parole for their assistance in the case.
The government is represented by Attorney-in-Charge J. Brendan Day and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Ramey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.
This case was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the FBI’s Greater Trenton Safe Streets Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to enhance the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of individuals involved in gang-related activities, violent crime, and drug distribution in and around the greater Trenton area. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.