TOMS RIVER — A total of 28 arrests, three fugitive warrants and nine controlled dangerous substance production facilities were dismantled during Operation Heading Back, a multi-agency effort with Ocean County’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato announced Friday.

Of those arrested, nine individuals were from Ocean County. There were 33 search warrants executed at residences in several counties across the state. Nine facilities that involved the packaging and distribution of controlled dangerous substances were raided, including one on East Connecticut Concourse in Jackson Township, Ocean County.

As a result of the investigation, the drugs seized included: 1,800 grams of heroin totaling more than 90,000 individual doses; 8,775 grams of cocaine; 100 ecstasy pills; 100 various prescription pills; and additional amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical compound in marijuana edibles, Promethazine and Suboxone.

There were 32 vehicles, 20 firearms and more than $848,000 believed to be from the sale of drugs seized, authorities said.

“They were into the drug business — they would supply you with every drug you needed,” Coronato said. “This, clearly, was a very sophisticated drug network. It was based on dollars, and it was based on profit.”

According to Coronato, Operation Heading Back resulted in the largest drug operation takedown in terms of drug amounts, money and scope in the history of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Operations Group.

The operation, beginning in April 2017, focused on disrupting and dismantling illicit controlled dangerous substance distribution in seven New Jersey counties and New York.

The name “Heading Back” stems from following the source of drugs in Ocean County from areas north toward Newark, Paterson and the Bronx, New York.

Coronato explained that during the investigation, authorities found the accused participants would go to several drug-dealing sources and negotiate for the best prices, as well as the quickest turnaround for drug distribution.

“This large-scale distribution of heroin and cocaine and the drug mills that were dismantled and the multiple firearms seized all present a danger to public health and safety,” New Jersey First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport said.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area partnership includes a cooperative effort with police departments from across Ocean County, as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Ocean and Monmouth counties, State Police, the N.J. National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and prosecutor’s offices from eight New Jersey counties.

“This investigation is another example of how collaborations between law enforcement on all levels can make an impact in New Jersey,” said Valerie A. Nickerson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administrations’s New Jersey Division.

Contact: 609-272-7286 Twitter @ACPress_LC

Staff Writer

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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