Authorities are still searching for the New Milford man, identified as 34-year-old Lee Aviles Jr., whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
Charges have been brought against Aviles, as well as Matthew Martin, 43, of Edgewater; Danny Saleh, 34, of Edgewater; Marcanton Macri, 44, of Edgewater; Richard Lozada, 37, of Old Bridge; and Anthony Alberga, 22, of Cliffside Park.
An investigation was conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, with assistance from several other agencies, including the New Milford Police Department.
The agency has been investigating the "marijuana distribution activities" of Martin and Saleh, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said in a news release last week.
Based upon the investigation, authorities said detectives learned the pair traveled from Northern California into areas known in the drug world known as the "Emerald Triangle."
The region is the largest in the United States, according to the prosecutor’s office, that produces cannabis for legal use by residents of California.
Authorities allege Martin and Saleh went to the region twice a month for one or two days at a time before returning to their homes in Edgewater.
Based upon the investigation, Molinelli alleges Martin and Saleh met with marijuana suppliers while in California and, after purchasing the marijuana, would package it in overnight mail boxes. The packages would then be sent to individuals living in Linden, Rahway, Edgewater and Brooklyn, according to Molinelli.
"Since the beginning of 2012 alone, detectives believe that Martin and Saleh are responsible for shipping approximately 1,000 pounds of marijuana to themselves utilizing this cross-country method," said Molinelli.
Detectives intercepted boxes that had been most recently sent – prior to arresting Martin – and found approximately 100 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $400,000, Molinelli said.
After purchasing the marijuana, Martin and Saleh would allegedly redistribute it to "associates" in the tri-state area, according to Molinelli.
Search warrants were executed at the homes of Martin and Saleh, where each paid approximately $5,000 a month in rent, according to Molinelli.
During the searches, authorities seized $250,000 from the pair, as well as high-end watches, a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Audi R8 and Range Rover, Molinelli said.
He added, "It should be noted that Matthew Martin is known on the street as ‘Federali’ because of his appearance and personality as he drove one of his tinted-windowed vehicles that was equipped with law enforcement license plates."Molinelli said Saleh was not at his home when the search warrant was executed, and detectives are still determining his whereabouts.
Suspected New Jersey customers of the pair, including Lozada and Aviles, have been charged; their homes were investigated after detectives were able to obtain search warrants, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Authorities said during the searches, detectives recovered marijuana, two ounces of cocaine, six handguns – two of which were stolen – and an Infiniti, Maserati and Mercedes Benz.
When detectives executed the search warrant at Aviles’ home in New Milford, he was not there at the time and his whereabouts are still being determined, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Authorities allege that Martin and Saleh used Alberga, an assistant bank manager in a local bank, in exchanging currency to reduce "the weight and bulk" of money as the two traveled through the airport during their trip to California.
Molinelli said Martin and Saleh would exchange lower denominations of currency for $100 bills.
Marcanton has been charged as part of the "scheme," said Molinelli, as investigators believe he was involved in facilitating the relationship between Martin and Saleh and Alberga.
News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: New Jersey
Author: Erin Patrica
Copyright: © 2012 North Jersey Media Group