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New Milford man sought in high-grade interstate pot ring in custody

Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor

ANOTHER CLIFFVIEW PILOT SCOOP: The last defendant sought in the takedown of a  high-grade marijuana network that shipped nearly $4 million of product from California to Edgewater, Brooklyn and elsewhere is in custody.

ABOVE: Lee Aviles Jr. (MUGSHOT: Bergen County Prosecutor); Lamborghini seized in raid (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo: No re-use without hyperlink)

Lee Aviles Jr., 35, whom authorities identified as a major customer for the drug ring, is being held on $125,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail. He is charged with drug and weapons offenses.

On Monday, 34-year-old Danny Saleh of Cliffside Park, an accused ringleader, surrendered to authorities.

This followed a series of arrests and seizures last weekend involving nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies, led by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.

Those charged include Marcanton “Marc” Macri, 44, who works as municipal prosecutor in North Bergen and for years has been Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s law partner. He remains free on $50,000 bail, posted after he was charged with three counts of money laundering and financial facilitation.

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Two of the sleek sports cars seized by Berg e n Co unty prosecutors who busted a high-level pot trafficking network this weekend are considered among the fastest, well-built vehicles ever made. READ MORE…. Macri and Saleh live in the pricey St. Moritz high-rise off Gorge Road in Edgewater.Arrested along with Macri was 43-year-old Matthew P. Martin, reportedly known as the “Federali,” in part because of a tinted-windowed vehicle he drove with law enforcement license plates, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. Martin keeps an apartment at the St. Moritz, as well. He is still being held on $250,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with conspiring to distribute large quantities of marijuana, among other counts.

Charged, as well, were

Richard Lozada, of 36 of Old Bridge — who, in addition to a similar drug charge, also faces illegal weapons possession counts — and an assistant banker with the Bank of New Jersey in Fort Lee.

Investigators seized six handguns — two that were stolen — vehicles that include a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Mercedes Benz, $250,000 in cash and designer watches, as well as pot and two ounces of cocaine, Molinelli said. “For the past two months, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has been developing intelligence and information regarding the marijuana distribution activities of Matthew Martin and Danny Saleh,” the prosecutor said.

“Detectives learned that Martin and Saleh were traveling to Northern California into areas known in the drug world as the Emerald Triangle, so named because of the thick forests hidden in Mendocino County, Humboldt County, and Trinity County,” he said.

“This region is the largest area in the United States that produces cannabis for legal use by California residents.”

“Martin and Saleh were traveling to this region on a bi-monthly basis and taking 1-2 day trips, then returning to their residences in Edgewater,” Molinelli said. “While in Northern California, Martin and Saleh are suspected of meeting with their suppliers to purchase bulk marijuana.“Martin and Saleh would then package and mask the high-grade marijuana and proceed to overnight mail the packages utilizing numerous post offices in towns north of San Francisco,” the prosecutor said.

“Martin was utilizing addresses of associates of his that resided in Linden and Rahway to send his packages, while Saleh was sending his packages to associates of his in Edgewater and Brooklyn.”

Investigators believe Martin and Saleh shipped nearly 1,000 pounds of marijuana cross-country to themselves since the beginning of the year.

U.S. Postal Inspectors intercepted 100 pounds of high-grade marijuana with a street value of $400,000, Molinelli said.

“The high-grade marijuana they were purchasing appeared extremely profitable for Martin and Saleh, as they would then re-distribute it to their associates in the tri-state area, the prosecutor said.

Both kept apartments in Edgewater just off Gorge Road that rented for $5,000 a month, he said.

They also used a local banker to covert smaller denominations of cash to $100 bills, Molinelli said.

“Detectives believe the purpose of this exchange was to reduce the weight and bulk of the currency that Martin and Saleh were transporting through the airport during the trips to Northern California,” he said.

Participating in the massive investigation and takedown, the prosecutor said, were:

  • the Bergen County Police Department;
  • the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department;
  • the Edgewater, Cliffside Park, New Milford, Linden, Old Bridge and Rahway police departments;
  • the Union and Middlesex County prosecutor’s offices;
  • the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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