Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | May 8, 2018 | MonroeNow
A Franklin Township man pleaded guilty to running a drug trafficking network that moved cocaine across county lines, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said on May 1.
Forty-year-old Michael “Augue” Rodriguez pleaded guilty on April 30 to a first-degree count of being the leader of the drug-trafficking network before New Brunswick Superior Court Judge Michael A. Toto. Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to a first-degree count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and a second-degree count of pertain persons not to have a firearm.
Rodriguez is facing a 20-year prison term as part of the plea deal reached with Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. He will be sentenced Aug. 23, the prosecutor’s office said.
“Just as prevention, education and treatment are important to our efforts to combat drug use, so too is effective law enforcement,” said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey in a statement. “Only by successfully investigating and prosecuting those who profit from the addition of others will we be able to address the current crisis.”
Rodriguez was one of 12 individuals arrested at various locations in May 2017 following a wiretap and a series of court-ordered searches. Those searches, the Prosecutor’s Office said, resulted in the “seizure of 900 grams of cocaine from Rodriguez’s home, $100,000 in cash from locations in Somerset County and New York City and seven guns from a storage facility in Somerset.”
The 14-month investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Prosecutor’s Office, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Brunswick Police Department.
Rodriguez is the latest of some of the individuals arrested in the March 2016 to May 2017 investigation.
Keith Groomes, 58, of Somerset pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2017 to one count of second-degree distribution of a controlled and dangerous substance. He is facing seven years in state prison and will be sentenced on June 28.
New Brunswick resident Karon Dempsey, 36, pleaded guilty on March 26 to one count of a third-degree possession of a controlled and dangerous substance. He is facing a four-year prison term, with a two-year period of parole ineligibility. He was scheduled for sentencing on May 3.
Dion Hooper, 47, of Somerset pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree possession with the intent to distribute and one count of second-degree eluding, not related to current case, on March 26. He is facing aggregate recommendation of 14 years in prison with a seven-year term of parole eligibility. His sentencing is May 24.
Sixty-six-year-old Sandra Carrion, of Somerset pleaded guilty on April 13 to one count of second-degree possession with intent to distribute in exchange for a recommendation of non-custodial probation. Her sentencing is scheduled for May 21.
Meghan Donato, 36, of Highland Park pleaded guilty on April 13 to improper behavior, a petty disorderly persons offense, in exchange for a recommendation of fines only. Her sentencing is set for June 14.
Saint Cloud, Fla, resident Carlos Landron, 47, was enrolled in the Pretrial Intervention program on April 10 for a three-year term.
The remaining defendants alleged to be involved in the drug trafficking case, Jamie Caban, 36, of East Brunswick; Brian Braxton, 47, of Somerset; Sean Thompson, 32, of North Brunswick; Kenneth Downing, 41, and Kelly Downing, 38, both of Bound Brook, still have pending charges.
“I commend each of the local, state and federal law enforcement officials whose cooperation led to the dismantling of this significant illegal drug organization,” Carey said.
Anyone with information may call Detective Michael Coppola of the New Brunswick Police Department at 732-745-5200, or Detective Joseph Celentano of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-745-3300.