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Fort Lee police arrest 5 in drug den, find $250,000 of heroin, stolen guns

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Fort Lee police seized three pounds of heroin worth more than $250,000 on the street, along with two stolen handguns, pot and other contraband in a raid on a Hudson Terrace apartment that Chief Keith Bendul said was operating as a heroin distribution mill.

The pre-dawn raid was prompted after K-9 Officer Rick Hernandez followed and pulled up to a motorist who had a flat tire around 12:50 a.m. Wednesday, Bendul said.

After leaving Myrtle Avenue, the driver turned onto Hudson Terrace, headed north in the southbound lanes and straddling the center yellow lines, with the flat and the vehicle’s hazard lights on, the chief said.

The Pennsylvania-plated car eventually stopped outside 2365 Hudson Terrace, just across the Palisades Interstate Parkway entrance to the George Washington Bridge. Hernandez “stopped alongside … to render assistance and to make sure the driver was OK,” Bendul said.

The driver – identified as 52-year-old Jose Rivas of the Bronx – didn’t have the equipment to change the flat and changed his story several times when explaining where he was coming from and going to, he said.

When Rivas opened the truck, the officer spotted a headlight and a car mirror and suspected something might be up, so he called for backup, Bendul said.

Officers Carlos Cabrera and Detective Thomas Porto arrived as Hernandez determined that Rivas had come from an apartment in the building he’d stopped in front of.

The officers accompanied Rivas to the fourth floor, where he called out to a second man, identified as Roberto Perez-Garcia, 23, also of the Bronx.

As Perez-Garcia opened the door, the chief said, “he was looking back to the other occupants of the apartment and did not see [Officer] Hernandez,” who looked inside and spotted a gallon-sized ziplock-styled bag filled with blue glassine envelopes commonly used to package heroin.

Perez-Garcia tried closing the door, but Hernandez pushed it open, drew his service weapon and ordered everyone inside onto the floor.

Once inside, the team of officers “observed thousands of glassine envelopes with and without heroin throughout the apartment,” Bendul said.

Two occupants — identified as Juan Santana, 31, the apartment tenant, and 44-year-old William Jerez of the Bronx — were sitting at the kitchen table, packing heroin, while a woman, Yomaira Sencion, sat on a couch next to several bags of the drug, the chief said.

After taking the occupants into custody, officers secured the apartment and applied for a search warrant, which was granted and then executed Thursday afternoon.

Bendul said the search turned up:

  • 3,044 glassine envelopes, each filled with  heroin (approx. 1 lb.),
  • a plastic bag containing more than 1 lb. of heroin,
  • another bag of heroin that combined the piles that Santana and Jerez were packaging (1 lb.), nearly 10,000 empty glassine baggies,
  • 6 zip-lock baggies containing marijuana,
  • grinders, strainers, scales, boxes of empty glassine baggies, rubber bands and a food sealer

They also found a .44-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and a 9mm Taurus P111 hangun, along with a box of 9mm ammo, the chief said.

Those arrested were being held in the Bergen County Jail. Charges include heroin distribution and weapons possession, among other related counts.

Their names, charges and bails:

Jose Rivas , 52, of the Bronx (20 counts), $150,000 bail:

  • Operating a drug production facility
  • Conspiracy (9 counts);
  • Committing a drug offense while possessing a firearm (2 counts);
  • Handgun possession (2 counts)
  • Distributing heroin;
  • Distributing heroin within 500′ of public housing;
  • Possessing marijuana;
  • Distributing drug paraphernalia;
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Receiving stolen property;

Juan Santana , 31, the apartment tenant ($350,000 bail); William Jerez , 44 ($350,000) and Roberto Perez-Garcia , 23 ($150,000 bail), both of the Bronx; and Yomaira Sencion , 29, of Manhattan ($150,000):

  • Operating a drug production facility;
  • Distributing heroin;
  • Possessing heroin within 500′ of public housing;
  • Distributing drug paraphernalia;
  • Committing a drug offense while possessing a firearm (2 counts);
  • Handgun possession (2 counts);
  • Receiving stolen property;
  • Possessing marijuana;
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia

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