During an undercover police investigation dubbed “Operation Skin Deep,” cops arrested 11 suspected drug dealers from New Jersey for operating an online drugs cartel. Their leader was a 31-year-old Lake Hopatcong man called Christopher Castelluzzo. He had earlier been charged with hatching a murder plan against two men after a drugs dispute went wrong, according to court statements.
Attorney General John Hoffman says that the investigation, Operation Skin Deep, was initially meant to be secretive, only targeting cocaine traffickers in Atlantic City. But with time it was discovered that the gang was using the web to sell drugs, as well as regular postal service for distribution of cocaine and other designer drugs.
What started out as a simple operation targeting a single metropolis only, later evolved into a wider investigation reaching far off places like northern New Jersey. Cops dismantled an online mail-order drugs ring that used to make huge profits. Division of Criminal Justice director, Elie Honig, mentioned that by following certain leads they broke down this crime syndicate and established a solid first-degree racketeering charge against the main culprits. One of the narcotics they were caught selling is ethylone, also popularly known as “M” and having similar effects as ecstasy.
It’s alleged that these 11 culprits employed cyber-age tactics to move their drugs across the city, all in a bid to avoid detection by authorities. Nevertheless, cops still maintain that they were typical drug peddlers capable of committing heinous violent crimes in real-life situation, as evidenced by the murder conspiracy charges set against them. Officers seized an estimated $1.2 million from a ring member’s trunk, making it one of the largest ever cash bust in state history. It speaks volumes on the massive illegal profits they were reaping while selling drugs.
If Castelluzzo is found guilty and convicted, he faces a prison sentence of up to 25 yrs. His oldest drugs crime partner was Jose A. Garcia-Hernandez (51) and youngest accomplice Christian Collado (27), amongst others such as an unidentified male only known as “Dre.” All culprits are New Jersey residents.
The drugs cash was found in Shazad Khan’s (32) car trunk back in 2015, marking the biggest ever narcotics money seizure to be made in New Jersey history. Two of the men charged in this case were arrested by police in a parking lot just off Union Turnpike, North Bergen. The takedown occurred on April 24th. Officers found bundles of notes wrapped with duct tape inside a suspect’s car. They went ahead to conduct a house search and found approximately $250,000 in cash, as well as jewelry, gold bars and quarter kilograms of cocaine. In addition, there were several rounds of ammunition, drugs testing kit, firearm silencers, packaging materials and many other related gears.
Castelluzzo was charged alongside Atwell for the murder conspiracy, Atwell was also apparently responsible for running marketing promotions on behalf of their drugs empire, including tracking and managing gross receipts, expenses and dealing directly with customers. As well as keeping an inventory of all drugs being sold. Yet another third conspirator, Aldo T. Lapaix (28), from Absecon, allegedly helped buy narcotics for the cartel to sell and oversaw packaging logistics also. They would transfer classified computer files to Lapaix consisting of customer order lists, individual screen-names, addresses and even the amount/type of narcotics required. Lapaix and his associates named in the conspiracy would then weigh and package drugs, formulate tracking information and mail respective orders.
31-year-old Christopher was charged with first-degree conspiracy to assassinate for an exposed plot to eliminate a former associate, together with that man’s bodyguard in an altercation over drugs, this despite the plan not being executed after all.
During investigation other outsiders from various regions apart from New Jersey were also arrested, specifically Jose Ruvalcaba (28) of California and Jamaal Johnson (30) from Maryland. They have directly been connected to Castelluzzo’s drugs network. Official indictments against the ringleader were first obtained on Thursday 3rd March, though it wasn’t announced until Monday since detectives are still putting together pieces of the case by seeking out several defendants who largely remain anonymous. A ruling is yet to be made concerning the case, though chances are high that Castelluzzo will be convicted considering the magnitude of his crimes.