NEWARK, N.J. – A man and woman from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, were charged today with conspiring to distribute heroin pills that were made to look like 30-milligram tablets of oxycodone, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Francisco Perez, 31, and Nadia Moronta Pena, 33, are charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin. The defendants appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court. Perez was detained. Pena was released on $150,000 unsecured bond.
According to the complaint:
During the course of an investigation into the illegal manufacturing and distribution of opioids and other narcotics in New Jersey, an undercover law enforcement agent received information that Perez was illegally distributing oxycodone.
On Jan. 23, 2018, Perez allegedly met the undercover agent in Paterson, New Jersey, and sold the undercover agent approximately 1,000 pills that were similar in size, shape, color, and physical markings to 30-milligram oxycodone tablets manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. However, when the pills were tested in a lab, they were found to contain a mixture of Tramadol, a Schedule IV synthetic opioid, and heroin.
On Feb. 7, 2018, the undercover agent again met with Perez in Paterson, this time to purchase up to 40,000 pills. During the meeting, Perez motioned to Pena, who brought over a white bag containing thousands of pills for the undercover agent to examine before the deal. Perez and Pena were then arrested at the scene, and law enforcement agents recovered more than 20,000 additional pills that were similar in appearance to the heroin pills that Perez sold the undercover agent on Jan. 23, 2018.
Around the time Perez and Pena were arrested, law enforcement officers conducted a search of their residence in Pennsylvania. They recovered numerous other pills, approximately one kilogram of a powdery substance believed to be heroin, pill-press materials, and a box containing several bottles of liquid labeled “Fentanyl.” A firearm was recovered from inside a compartment in the wall of the residence.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson in Newark, as well as the DEA Scranton Resident Office, the Hazleton Police Department, and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Wangenheim of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force/Narcotics Unit in Newark.
The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Perez: John Yauch Esq.
Pena: Paulette Pitt Esq.