The Biggest Drug Bust in Ocean County in 30 Years: Heroin & Cocaine Distribution Charges in Toms River On A Large Scale

It’s called “Operation Heading Back.”  A widespread drug investigation, involving 30 state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, has finally hit pay dirt with over twenty individuals arrested for distribution of heroin and cocaine, as well as firearm charges.  

Last week, Ocean County authorities announced the dismantling of a sophisticated CDS distribution network that spanned seven New Jersey counties and parts of New York. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, along with other agencies, arrested 29 individuals and seized more than 90,000 doses of heroin, 191 pounds of cocaine, and $850,000 in cash.  

The Ocean County Prosecutor held a large press conference where he indicated that Ocean County is Ground Zero for the opioid epidemic and that the “[b]ottom line is, when you can’t get the pills anymore, [users] end up going to heroin and other drugs.”  

The drug trafficking enterprise in this case was sophisticated and far-reaching, and most significantly, operated like an efficient business.  As law enforcement engaged in controlled drug transactions using undercover officers, they noted that the drug dealers behaved as “true business dealers,” trying to make deals to maximize profits.  Some of the busts during the arrests of the 28 individuals also yielded a large number of semi-automatic guns and expensive cars.

Drug Distribution Offenses in Ocean CountyIt is clear that those arrested in connection with “Operation Heading Back” will be facing drug distribution charges.  Let’s talk a little more about how New Jersey handles drug distribution offenses.

Drug distribution crimes can be prosecuted three different criminal statutes.  One, two, or all three statutes can be charged against a person for a particular distribution offense, depending on the circumstances.  The choice of which, or how many, charges to bring is based on the factual circumstances.  

The general statute used to prosecute drug distribution offenses is New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5.  That statute makes it is illegal to purposefully “manufacture, distribute, or dispense” a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), or to “possess . . . with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense,” a CDS or counterfeit CDS.

The second statute is the school zone statute - N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.  That statute makes it is illegal to distribute, or possess with the intent to distribute, CDS within 1000 feet of school property or a school bus.

Finally, the third statute is the public park statute - N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1.  That statute makes it is illegal to distribute, or possess with the intent to distribute, CDS within 500 feet of a public housing facility, a public park, or a public building.

Penalties for Drug DistributionTaking the general drug distribution statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5, as an example, the seriousness of the penalty for a conviction depends on the amount and type of CDS involved.  Here is some information with regard to heroin and cocaine, the drugs seized in “Operation Heading Back:”
  • First-degree distribution.  Distribution of 5 or more ounces of cocaine or heroin.  The penalty could be 10 to 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.  
  • Second-degree distribution.  Distributing between ½ and 5 ounces of cocaine or heroin.  The penalty could be 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.  
  • Third-degree distribution.  Distributing less than ½ ounce of cocaine or heroin.  The penalty could be 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $75,000 in fines.  

Further, enhanced penalties apply if (i) the defendant possessed a gun during the distribution offense; (ii) someone died as a result of the drugs being distributed; or (iii) the defendant distributed drugs to a pregnant woman or a minor.

Ocean County Drug Distribution Lawyers Will Defend You In CourtThe people who were rounded up in “Operation Heading Back” are innocent until proven guilty.  While the drug bust sounds like big news, the devil is in the details.  It is important to know the specific facts of every defendant before coming to the conclusion that all 28 arrestees are guilty.  The Law Office of Jonathan F. Marshall employs a team of eight Ocean County drug distribution lawyers who possess over a century of combined experience defending clients in Toms River, Lakewood, Brick, Seaside, Jackson, Manchester and other locations in the county. Not only have our attorneys handled thousands of CDS distribution cases, but have also served as prosecutors who have handled drug cases from the other side of the aisle.  Our experience with drug cases is extensive and an attorney is available 24/7 to help you.  Call us today for a free case review.  We will be able to develop a winning defense strategy to get you the best outcome for your offense.  Our number is 732-286-6500 and you can reach a lawyer immediately. 

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