Man jailed for fake cocaine
Defendant tried to rip off drug dealer in Newark
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.”