Prosecutor: ‘Operation Checkmate’ dismantles major cocaine networks

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Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer has announced the culmination of a four-month cooperative, multi-jurisdictional investigation conducted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Group 5, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, and the New Jersey State Police – Trafficking Central Unit, in concert with many other state, county and local law enforcement agencies.

“The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force managed and directed three simultaneous multi-agency investigations into high level cocaine distribution in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties, as well as New York City,” Billhimer was quoted as saying in a press release.

“During the course of these investigations, approximately 50 additional law enforcement personnel were assigned to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force on a full-time basis. Multiple agencies – both within and outside of Ocean County – assisted in every aspect of all three investigations. The investigations, identified as ‘Operation Checkmate,’ began in July 2021 and concluded (the final week in October,” Billhimer said.

The three cocaine networks were responsible for the import of more than three kilograms of cocaine per week into the Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex areas, according to the press release.

Through sophisticated surveillance methods and undercover operatives, “Operation Checkmate” was successful in disrupting and dismantling alleged illicit controlled dangerous substance distribution activities in these three counties, as well as in New York City, by the following individuals: Luis Feliz, 41, of New York; James Hemenway (also known as “King James”), 43, of Marlboro; Dale McCord, 44, of Manalapan; Mark Capichana, 54, of Hazlet; Mark Kelber, 44, of Manalapan; and Andrew Contaldi, 47, of Brick Township.

On Oct. 26, “Operation Checkmate” closed with the apprehension of 24 individuals for various offenses involving distribution of controlled dangerous substances.

Additionally, 24 search warrants were executed, resulting in the seizure of more than 4 kilograms of cocaine, more than 15 pounds of marijuana, in excess of $650,000 in United States currency, seven firearms, 10 vehicles and additional illegal narcotics, according to the press release.

The following individuals were arrested as a result of “Operation Checkmate”:

• Luis Feliz, 41, of New York, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; and Financial Facilitation. Feliz is presently in custody in New York City, pending extradition to New Jersey;

• James Hemenway, 43, of Marlboro, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of MDMA in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce with Intent to Distribute; Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms with Intent to Distribute; Possession of Cocaine; Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms; two counts of Financial Facilitation; and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Hemenway is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail, Toms River, pending a detention hearing;

• Dale McCord, 44, of Manalapan, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of Cocaine; Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms with Intent to Distribute; Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms; Possession of Marijuana; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; Possession of a Weapon During Controlled Dangerous Substance Activity; Certain Person not to Possess a Firearm; three counts of Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine; and two counts of Financial Facilitation. McCord is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Mark Capichana, 54, of Hazlet, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Maintaining or Operating a Controlled Dangerous Substance Production Facility; Possession of Cocaine; and Financial Facilitation. Capichana is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Mark Kelber, 44, of Manalapan, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of Cocaine; Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute; two counts of Possession of Marijuana; Possession of Oxandrolone; Possession of Trenbolone; Possession of Drostanalone; Possession of Mesternolone; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; and Certain Person not to Possess a Firearm. Kelber is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Andrew Contaldi, 47, of Brick Township, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; six counts of Distribution of Cocaine; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of Cocaine; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; and Financial Facilitation. Contaldi is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Andre Johnson, 45, of Freehold, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce with Intent to Distribute; Possession of Cocaine; Maintaining or Operating a Controlled Dangerous Substance Production Facility; Financial Facilitation; and Witness Tampering. Johnson is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Brian Contey, 41, of Brick Township, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce, and Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute. Contey is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Tyrone Finch, 36, of Parlin, charged with Possession of Cocaine in an Amount Greater than 5 Ounces with Intent to Distribute; Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce; Possession of Cocaine; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; Financial Facilitation; Possession of a Weapon During Controlled Dangerous Substance Activity; Certain Person not to Possess a Firearm; and Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine. Finch is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing;

• Alex Johnson, 47, of Brick Township, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Johnson was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• George Sirleaf, 47, of Keyport, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Sirleaf was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• Terrence Brown, 44, of Matawan, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Brown was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• Irene Patelaros, 46, of Marlboro, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Patelaros was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• John Dolan, 46, of Matawan, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Dolan was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• Shawn McCord, 25, of Matawan, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. McCord was charged on a warrant and released pursuant to New Jersey Bail Reform;

• Daniel Jeandron, 41, of Keyport, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Jeandron was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Alexander Nagy, 42, of Laurence Harbor, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Nagy was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• John Sozomenou, 46, of Matawan, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Sozomenou was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Joseph Horvath, 33, of Toms River, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Horvath was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Christopher Lyons, 42, of Matawan, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Lyons was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Robert Dazinski, 59, of Hazlet, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Dazinski was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Diana Roman-Porpora, 54, of Howell, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Roman-Porpora was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Bobbie Parsells, 42, of Keyport, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Parsells was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance;

• Daniel Votapek, 36, of Point Pleasant, charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in an Amount Greater than One-Half Ounce. Votapek was charged on a summons and released pending a future court appearance.

“An investigation of this magnitude requires the cooperation of numerous law enforcement agencies and officers,” Billhimer said. “Law enforcement officers at the local, county, state and federal levels demonstrated outstanding teamwork in connection with this very wide-ranging, comprehensive investigation.

“This team of professionals literally worked around the clock for the last several months with a singular goal in mind: removing dangerous drug dealers from our streets. I am so grateful for the resolve and dedication exhibited by all the officers and detectives involved in ‘Operation Checkmate,’ ” the prosecutor said.

Included among the agencies Billhimer recognized for their assistance and cooperation with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force in connection with this investigation were the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force; the Matawan Police Department; the Matawan Police Department K-9 Unit; the Keyport Police Department; the Manalapan Police Department; the Jackson Police Department; the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office; the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit; the Aberdeen Township Police Department; the Hazlet Police Department; the Hazlet Police Department K-9 Unit; the Marlboro Police Department; the Middletown Township Police Department; and the Old Bridge Police Department – Bureau of Narcotics.