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Four Township Residents Plead Guilty To Drug Distribution Charges

A township man is the latest of four Franklin residents to plead guilty to a charge of operating or participating in a multi-county cocaine distribution ring.

Michael “Augue” Rodriguez, 40, of Somerset pleaded guilty on April 30 to a first degree count of being the leader of a narcotics trafficking network, according to a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. He faces 20 years in state prison when he is sentenced, according to the release.

Rodriguez and the other township residents were among a dozen people rounded up in May 2017 on various drug distribution charges.

Rodriguez entered his plea before state Superior Court Judge Michael Toto. He also pleaded guilty to a first degree count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and a second degree count of certain persons not to possess a firearm, according to the release.

Under the plea deal struck with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutors Tzvi Dolinger and Arabelys Santos, Rodriguez will have to serve the full 20 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced in in New Brunswick by Judge Toto on Aug. 23, according to the release.

The arrests of teh township residents and the others in May 2017 came after a wiretap investigation and a number of searches which resulted in the seizure of 900 grams of cocaine from Rodriguez’s home on Hillcrest Avenue, $100,000 in cash from locations in Somerset County and New York City, and 7 guns from a storage facility in Somerset.

According to the release, other township residents pleading guilty in the case are:

  • Keith Groomes, 58, of Somerset.  On December 14, 2017 he pleaded guilty to one count of second degree distribution of a controlled and dangerous substance in exchange for a recommendation of seven years in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28, 2018.
  • Dion Hooper, 47, of Somerset pleaded guilty on March 26, 2018, to one count of second degree possession with intent to distribute and one count of second degree eluding (from an unrelated case) in exchange for an aggregate recommendation of 14 years in state prison with a seven year term of parole ineligibility. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 24, 2018.
  • Sandra Carrion, 66, of Somerset pleaded guilty on April 13, 2018, to one count of second degree possession with intent to distribute in exchange for a recommendation of non-custodial probation. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21, 2018.

A fifth township resident, Brian Braxton, 47, of Somerset, still has pending charges in the case, according to the release.

Also pleading guilty in the case were:

  • Karon Dempsey, 36, of New Brunswick, who pleaded guilty on March 26, 2018, to one count of third degree possession of a controlled and dangerous substance exchange for a recommendation of four years in state prison with a two year period of parole ineligibility. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, 2018.
  • Meghan Donato, 36, of Highland Park, who pleaded guilty on April 13, 2018, to improper behavior, a Petty Disorderly Persons offense, in exchange for a recommendation of fines only. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June14, 2018.
  • Carlos Landron, 47, of Saint Cloud, Florida who was enrolled in the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI), on April 10, 2018 for a three year term.

Additionally, Jamie Caban, 36, of East Rutherford; Sean Thompson, 32 of North Brunswick; Kenneth Downing, 41, and Kelly Downing, 38, both of Bound Brook, still have pending charges in this case, according to the release.

The investigation lasted from March 2016 through May 2017, and included officers from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, and the New Brunswick Police Department.

“I commend each of the local, state and federal law enforcement officials whose cooperation led to the dismantling of this significant illegal drug organization,”Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said in the release.

“Just as prevention, education and treatment are important to our efforts to combat drug use, so too is effective law enforcement,” Carey said in the release.  “Only by successfully investigating and prosecuting those who profit from the addiction of others, will we be able to address the current crisis.”

 

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