Men Sentenced for Largest Fentanyl Seizure in New Jersey History

By Keri Blakinger 02/01/18

"The 100 pounds of fentanyl could have generated enough lethal doses to kill the entire populations of New Jersey and NYC combined."

nj turnpike
Aerial view of the New Jersey Turnpike

Two men were sentenced to prison last week after they were caught with enough fentanyl to wipe out New York City and New Jersey.

The record-setting bust netted 40 kilos of fentanyl seized in North Bergen and another 5 kilos found in a related search in the Philadelphia-area town of Willingboro. Together they made for the largest fentanyl seizure ever in the Garden State.

Jesus Carrillo-Pineda, a 31-year-old from Pennsylvania, was hit with a 10-year sentence including four years of parole ineligibility for a first-degree charge of possession with intent to distribute, along with a concurrent sentence of seven years for a second-degree charge of fentanyl possession with intent to distribute, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

Daniel Vasquez, a 28-year-old from Arizona, was sentenced last week to six years in state prison for a second-degree charge of fentanyl possession with intent to distribute.

“Many lives were undoubtedly saved as a result of this record-setting fentanyl seizure by the New Jersey State Police,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement. “Because dealers use this super-potent opioid to boost heroin and create counterfeit oxy pills, drug users are left to play a deadly game of Russian roulette each time they give way to their addiction.”

Authorities started investigating the pair after learning of a large shipment of drugs set for delivery to a location in North Bergen. In June, State Police detectives collared Carrillo-Pineda and Vasquez in the parking lot of a business where they’d just moved 40 kilos of fentanyl from a tractor-trailer to the trunk of Carrillo-Pineda’s Mercedes-Benz. A third man was also arrested, though charges against him were dismissed seven months later.

Carrillo-Pineda—along with 38-year-old Omar Zeus Rodriguez—was also charged for 5 kilos of fentanyl and 40 kilos of heroin found at Rodriguez’s home, where Carrillo-Pineda had been staying. When police approached Rodriguez, he was packing suitcases of drugs into a Range Rover. He is currently on the run from charges including heroin and meth possession.

Officials responded to the sentencing announcement by highlighting the danger of fentanyl and its growing prevalence.

“The 45 kilograms of fentanyl seized last year in this investigation brought home the scope of the problem we face in New Jersey with this highly lethal opioid,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Three years ago, fentanyl was found in only about 2 percent of the heroin tested by the State Police; by late last year, it was found in nearly one-third of the heroin tested.”

The acting superintendent of New Jersey State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan, concurred.

“A seizure of this magnitude, which had enough lethal doses to wipe out the entire population of New Jersey twice over, in all likelihood prevented someone from ever taking their first dose, saving them from a life of misery and addiction,” he said.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.