2 COPS CAUGHT IN DRUG RING PROBE $35G in coke sold weekly; also arrest Hoboken firefighter

2 COPS CAUGHT IN DRUG RING PROBE $35G in coke sold weekly; also arrest Hoboken firefighter
Publication: Jersey Journal (New Jersey)
Date: Thursday, October 8 2009

A probe into a drug ring operating out of a Downtown Jersey City restaurant has led to 17 arrests, including a Hoboken police officer and Hoboken Fire Department battalion chief, as well as a Jersey City police officer who was already suspended, officials said.

The year-and-a-half investigation resulted in the arrest of Jersey City Police Officer Mark Medal, 52, of Fifth Street; Hoboken Fire Department Battalion Chief Henry Setkiewicz, 59, of Summit Avenue in Jersey City; and Hoboken Police Officer Ralph F. Gallo, 25, of Church Towers in Hoboken, said Hudson County First Assistant Prosecutor Guy Gregory.

Medal, who is already suspended, and Setkiewicz were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine and are believed to have been regular cocaine customers of the network, which allegedly operated out of the Calle Luna Restaurant, also known as the "D. Hernandez" Restaurant, at Varick and Wayne streets, officials said.

Contacted last night, an employee at the restaurant who did not give her name said she had never seen any suspicious activity there.

Gallo and Hoboken Parking Utility employee Monica Thorpe, 42, of 1 Marine View Plaza in Hoboken, were charged with computer theft (criminal computer activity), officials said, adding that Gallo is also charged with official misconduct.
The investigation by the Prosecutor's Office, the Jersey City police and the Drug Enforcement Administration identified Anthony Velez, 37, Manuel Reyes Jr., 31, and Felix Santiago III, 34, as alleged leaders in the network and they were arrested on Sept. 22, officials said.

They were charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute more than a pound of cocaine, officials said.

A search warrant executed at the restaurant and several other locations turned up more than a pound of cocaine and four firearms, officials said, adding that the drug ring is thought to have distributed more than $35,000 in cocaine per week.

The investigation led to warrants being issued on Tuesday for an additional 14 suspects, and the investigation is ongoing.

Officials say additional arrests are expected shortly.

Gallo was charged after he allegedly ran a law enforcement license plate check in a government database as a favor to one of the targets of the investigation, officials said, adding that the charges against Thorpe stem from similar activity.

Gallo faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the official misconduct charge.

Medal was already suspended due to a problem with a drug test and he will remain suspended, and Setkiewicz will be suspended as a result of the charge against him, officials said.

The employment status of Gallo and Thorpe could not be determined last night.

Others arrested on drug charges were Jersey City residents, Nirav B. Lakhani, 25, of Perry Street; Maria Mestre, 39, of Claremont Avenue; Carlos Rivera, 19, of Williams Avenue; Tulio C. Lopez, 51, of Van Winkle Avenue; Will Camacho, 18, of Perry Street; Carlos Burgos, 32, of New York Avenue; Pedro J. Torres, 49, of Corbin Avenue; Alicia Orrego, 32, of Corbin Avenue; as well as Joseph Casiano Jr., 21, of Washington Street in Hoboken, and Edward Bloncourt, 55, of County Avenue in Secaucus, officials said.

Bails for key figures in the alleged ring reach as high as $400,000, officials said.

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