Man jailed for fake co­caine

De­fen­dant tried to rip off drug dealer in Ne­wark

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­[email protected]­

A man who told ac­com­plices that rip­ping off a drug dealer in Ne­wark would be “like tak­ing candy from a baby” will spend the next two years in fed­eral prison after the drug dealer turned out to be a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant work­ing with po­lice.

Roger Mercedes, 30, of the Bronx, N.Y., pleaded guilty in fed­eral court to con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud for at­tempt­ing to sell sev­eral kilo­grams of fake co­caine to the in­for­mant in the park­ing lot of a Ne­wark ho­tel.

“Drug trans­ac­tions, real or fake, threaten the safety and se­cu­rity of our com­mu­nity,” U.S. At­tor­ney David C. Weiss said in a pre­pared state­ment. “Trans­ac­tions de­signed to rip off wouldbe il­le­gal drug pur­chasers are par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous. These per­pe­tra­tors must be held ac­count­able.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan in Au­gust 2017 and was co­or­di­nated by an un­der­cover Ne­wark Po­lice Depart­ment of­fi­cer who serves on a Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion task force.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, the of­fi­cer re­ceived a tip from the con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant, who said he had met Mercedes while work­ing as an Uber driver in Or­lando, Fla. Dur­ing their in­ter­ac­tion, Mercedes told the in­for­mant he co­or­di­nates the distri­bu­tion of co­caine through­out Delaware, Penn­syl­va­nia and Mary­land.

Work­ing with po­lice, the in­for­mant con­tacted Mercedes and ar­ranged a meet­ing in Cin­namin­son, N.J., where the in­for­mant bought two ounces of co­caine from Mercedes “to in­spect the co­caine’s qual­ity and de­ter­mine how it would sell in Delaware,” the Ne­wark of­fi­cer wrote in court doc­u­ments.

The in­for­mant then ar­ranged to buy five kilo­grams of co­caine at a price of $137,500 and ob­tain three more kilo­grams “on loan.” He and Mercedes agreed to meet in the park­ing lot of the Em­bassy Suites ho­tel on South Col­lege Av­enue to make the trans­ac­tion.

Mercedes, how­ever, never in­tended to sell co­caine to the in­for­mant and in­stead planned to rip him off, telling three men who ac­com­pa­nied him to Delaware that selling the fake drugs would be so easy they didn’t need to bring guns.

Mercedes and his ac­com­plices ar­rived at the Em­bassy Suites on Nov. 8, 2017, and met with the in­for­mant. How­ever, they got spooked by three po­lice of­fi­cers in a sur­veil­lance van and drove away be­fore mak­ing the trans­ac­tion.

Po­lice pulled over their ve­hi­cle, ar­rested all four men and found the fake co­caine in a suit­case in the back.

Mercedes’ al­leged ac­com­plices, Keith Lendof, Red Pichardo and An­gel Ce­sar, are also fac­ing con­spir­acy charges.

The Ne­wark of­fi­cer wrote in court doc­u­ments that such scams are com­mon in the drug trade.

“Drug deal­ers are par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to this sort of theft be­cause they can­not re­port the theft to law en­force­ment with­out also alert­ing law en­force­ment that they are a drug dealer,” the of­fi­cer wrote. “Of­ten, thefts by a drug dealer or drug pur­chaser lead to vi­o­lence, which helps ex­plain why Mercedes rep­re­sented that he was from Pitts­burg and not his true home, New York.”

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