Authorities dealt a major blow to an international drug pipeline when three men allegedly connected to a Mexican ring were arrested with nearly $1 million worth of heroin in Atlantic City, state Attorney General Christopher Porrino said Tuesday.
Steven Rodriguez, 22, Edwin Gomez, 31, and Steven Torres, 24, all of New York City, face several drug charges following an investigation by the Atlantic City Task Force, in cooperation with federal agents, that revealed they were delivering 7.7 pounds of heroin last week to a location on the beach block of St. James Place, authorities said.
The three were connected to a drug-trafficking ring that ran out of Mexico, Porrino said in a statement.
The heroin, laced with fentanyl, was brought from Mexico to New York City. It was delivered to Atlantic City by Rodriguez, Gomez and Torres, according to the statement.
“The heroin seized in this case has a value of nearly $300,000 if sold in bulk, and could have been cut, packaged and sold on the street for upwards of $1 million,” Porrino said. “By putting these alleged heroin traffickers in prison, the Atlantic City Task Force and HSI (U.S. Customs Homeland Security Investigations) cut off a major supply line of heroin into Atlantic City and rescued lives that might have been lost to this poison.”
Rodriguez, Gomez and Torres were arrested at 1 p.m. Thursday immediately after pulling into a parking lot on St. James Place.
They are each charged with first-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, second-degree conspiracy to distribute heroin, second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 500 feet of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and third-degree heroin possession.
“The seizure of such a large quantity of heroin from an international trafficking network substantially cripples a major pipeline into Atlantic City and surrounding areas,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will continue to work with our local and federal partners to target drug dealers and put them behind bars.”
The suspects were taken to Atlantic County jail. If convicted, they face 10 to 20 years in prison for the first-degree charge and five to 10 years in prison for the second-degree charges. They could also receive fines totaling $500,000.
The Atlantic City Task Force includes the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, State Parole Board, Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, Atlantic City Police Department, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and Little Egg Harbor Township, Brigantine and Pleasantville police. The task force also partners with HSI Cherry Hill, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.