Twelve people are in custody Wednesday following what Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor said this is the largest narcotics investigation in the county’s history.
“This was truly a joint effort,” Taylor said. “Law enforcement should be commended -- not only federal and state, but local.”
Drugs with a street value of more than $3 million were seized when officers executed search warrants in Wildwood, Cape May, Vineland, Middle Township and Burleigh Wednesday.
“So far, the equivalent of 182,000 bags of heroin, with a street value in excess of $3.6 million were seized,” Taylor said. “One hand gun and approximately $200,000 dollars of cash were also seized.”
Officials also searched six different cars, finding approximately 8,000 more bags of heroin from one of the vehicles in Cape May County.
Police arrested Carlos Guzman and Hector Ramos, the alleged ringleaders. They're facing charges so serious, they could spend the rest of their lives in jail if convicted. Among their charges, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a controlled, dangerous substance.
Miguel Claudio, Juan A. Lopez, Maritza Jenkins, Toby Simmons, Jose I. Baez, Edward Perez, Angelica Alvarado, Romulo Rojas Navarro, and Badie M. Hmaidan were also arrested and charged with similar, but not as serious charges.
“My philosophy has always been we don’t put users in jail,” Taylor said. “Dealers we put in jail. But if they’re selling drugs and approaching our teenagers with heroin, we’re going to put them in jail for as long as we can.”
Both Taylor and Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae say Wednesday's bust is a big step in combating the heroin epidemic.
“Any time that something effects one county, it has a regional effect,” Webb-McRae said. “I believe this is a big tool to show that we are fighting this epidemic, and law enforcement will respond to the people that market this to the young people and our citizens in our two counties.”
“We’re trying to attack the heroin epidemic on several fronts,” Taylor said. “Education to try and prevent it, and law enforcement to try and stop it.”
The investigation is ongoing. Both county prosecutors anticipate more arrests.