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Press Release

Somerset County, New Jersey, Man Admits Knowingly Possessing Air Tank Filled With Heroin And Cocaine

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Somerset, New Jersey, man who was pulled over with an air tank hiding 19 kilograms of cocaine and seven kilograms of heroin today admitted his intent to distribute the drugs in the Jersey City, New Jersey, area, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Richard Vasquez Rodriguez, 35, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to a superseding information charging him with one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Jan. 16, 2014, Rodriguez was driving a 2005 Blue Chevrolet Tahoe on the New Jersey Turnpike headed towards Jersey City. Law enforcement officers pulled over Rodriguez and he consented to a search of the vehicle. 

Law enforcement found an air tank, similar to a helium tank for filling balloons, lying in the back of the Chevrolet Tahoe. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that one end of the air tank had been removed at some point and welded back together. A search of the air tank revealed that it contained approximately 19 kilograms of cocaine and seven kilograms of heroin. Rodriguez admitted today that he transported the air tank with the intent to distribute the cocaine and heroin.

Both distribution offenses to which Rodriguez pleaded guilty carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2016.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski, and officers of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, superintendent of the state police, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacques S. Pierre, Joyce M. Malliet and Francisco J. Navarro of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Dennis D.S. McAlevy Esq., Union City, New Jersey

Updated December 7, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-446