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September 18, 2007
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N.J. 'coke ring' painted as slick operation

The Jersey Journal

NEWARK, N.J. A cocaine distribution ring based in Jersey City was so sophisticated that its reputed members acted in roles not unlike those of executives at a legitimate business, a federal prosecutor told a jury yesterday.

There was someone serving as a chief executive officer, a manager of day-to-day operations, suppliers and distributors, as well as warehouses and records, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Carletta said. The only difference between the network and a bona fide company was that the network sold illicit drugs, he said.

"Each of these men are drug dealers and their product was cocaine," Carletta said. "They shared one common goal, one purpose: Sell drugs, make money."

But defense lawyers offered an opposing view. While a couple of them acknowledged their clients had sold drugs, they insisted there was no conspiracy and more than one argued the evidence will not tie their client into the buying and selling of any narcotics.

"I submit they had no reason to arrest him," defense attorney Dennis Cipriano said of his client, Maximino Nieves, 34, of West Orange. "None at all."

Michael Koribanics, the lawyer for Misael Arzola, 28, of Jersey City, accused prosecutors of exaggerating their case.

The conflicting statements came as the trial of three brothers from Jersey City, two men from Essex County and one from Morris County opened in Newark before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton.

An eight-count indictment from earlier this year charged the six defendants with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. Four are also accused of weapons offenses.

Arsenio Arzola, 36, of Jersey City, has been charged with shooting at a Drug Enforcement Administration agent when he was arrested on June 30, 2005, the same day the others were taken into custody. Carletta called him the ring's manager.

His public defender, Kevin Carlucci, said Arzola opened fire strictly in self-defense, not knowing those bursting into his home were police.

Carletta described Ben Arzola, 40, of Jersey City, the oldest of the brothers, as the ringleader of the group.

But defense attorney Anthony Iacullo disputed the characterization. "Ben Arzola is not part of a conspiracy, he's not a CEO and he didn't distribute cocaine," Iacullo said.

The ring used three separate "stash houses" in Jersey City 57 Corbin Ave., 429 Fairmount Ave. and 115 Highland Ave. to carry out its operation, along with cell phones and weapons, Carletta said.

Copyright 2007 Jersey Journal

Full story: N.J. 'coke ring' painted as slick operation

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