Illegal ‘meth’ ring busted on JFK Blvd. Police find $341K, drugs throughout house

In what is said to be the largest drug arrest in memory, Bayonne police detectives on Feb. 14 concluded a 1.5-year drug investigation with six arrests and the seizing of more than $341,000 in cash.

The money was believed to be revenue from a massive distribution center for methamphetamine, or “meth.” In addition, the police said they found large quantities of drugs and money hidden everywhere from in a backpack to in a Coke can.

Two Bayonne residents, Marie “Baby” Cuneta, 57, and Arlon Macatangay, 46, were arrested and charged with allegedly distributing drugs out of their home at 78 Kennedy Blvd.

Cuneta and Macatangay faced charges of possession of methamphetamines, intent to distribute the drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, and intent to distribute within 500 feet of public housing. They were also charged with conspiracy to violate narcotics laws.

The detectives conducted the investigation in conjunction with the DEA.

Police Chief Robert Kubert called them the arrested residents “ring leaders” of the operation.

Also charged

Charged with possession of drugs and intent to distribute were Edwin L. Padilla, 50, of Maspeth, N.Y., and Alejandro Guito, 44, of Old Bridge, N.J.

Raymond F. Dimayuga, 49, of Somerville, N.J., and Reynaldo R. Gomez, 54, of Manville, N.J., were charged only with possession.

Kubert said the Bayonne Police were alerted about a year and a half ago by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The network allegedly is the largest known to be operating in Northern New Jersey, said Police Director Mark Smith.

Smith and Kubert said this is by far the largest cash haul of drug revenues in the last 40 years in Bayonne. Bayonne police involved in the apprehensions were Sgt. Joseph Spiers, Det. Wayne Grapstule, Det. Steven Rhodes, Det. Roman Popowski, Det. Carlos Betancourth and Det. John Era.

“These men did a good job,” Smith said. “While there is no good drug, this is a particularly evil drug. It is highly addictive.”

The drug operation, he said, was highly sophisticated, using cellular telephones and pagers.

“To arrest this bunch, our detectives did it the old fashioned way. They sat, waited and watched,” he said. “They had to drink a lot of stale coffee.”

A very involved investigation

During the investigation, the Bayonne police – with the assistance of Police Officer Patrick Lynch – were able to cultivate a reliable informant who knew the routines of the alleged drug operation.

The operation allegedly distributed drugs throughout the city of Bayonne as well as the tri-state area. Prospective customers would call for an appointment and customers would either come to the Kennedy Boulevard house or meet at another place.

Along with cash, the police seized about $5,000 worth of drugs and a 2002 BMW.

Smith said he believes the drugs had been manufactured elsewhere and shipped into Bayonne for distribution. Sgt. Spiers said the investigation began in late 2006.

Finally, arrests

The arrests took place after Bayonne detectives allegedly witnessed Cuneta meeting with Gomez and Dimayuga near the Kennedy Boulevard house, where an envelope, allegedly containing drugs, passed between them in exchange for cash.

The detectives followed Gomez and Dimayuga to Route 440 near 34th Street and arrested them. Cuneta was later arrested in the shopping center parking lot of Lefante Avenue after police said they witnessed additional alleged drug sales to Padilla and Guito.

Macatangay was arrested at the Kennedy Boulevard house.

Detectives said the suspects were more than a little surprised at the arrests.

“These are usually very tight-knit networks that keep quiet about each other,” Smith said.

He said a search of the house showed no sign of lab equipment. This suggested that the drugs were manufactured elsewhere and shipped to Bayonne for distribution.

The Bayonne house, Smith said, apparently also served as the cash repository for the operation.

Cash all over

Cash, according to the arresting officers, was found in numerous locations throughout the apartment. A small, black case in the rear bedroom contained about $7,600, while a silver case contained most $40,000. A bundle of $10,000 in cash, bound by rubber bands, was stashed in a side compartment of a desk. Another $90,000 was found in a black case in the bedroom. A child’s backpack in the bedroom contained another $190,000.

Drugs were allegedly hidden in various containers, such as a false Campbell soup can and a false can of Diet Coke.

While Smith believed this investigation closed down operations in Bayonne, he said the DEA was using information to continue to search for the source of the drugs.

email to Al Sullivan


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group