Three members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Explorers Post 140 on Saturday, March 23, climbed hillsides and scoured the banks of the Whippany River in Morristown for litter while participating in the 9th annual Whippany River clean-up.
Two Explorer’s Post advisers – Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Laura Bertelli and Sergeant Walter Rawa – accompanied the teenage Explorers – Steven Fasano, Vani Gupta and Chris Primamore – on their quest to rid the riverbanks of a year’s accumulation of cans, bottles, plastic and Styrofoam.
Intrepid Sergeant Rawa wrestled a rusty, 12-foot ladder out of the river, a tributary of the Rockaway River that attracts fishermen throughout the year.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Morris County Freeholder Douglas Cabana and state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco stopped by to thank all the litter collectors who had gathered by the river behind Bethel A.M.E. Church for the event held annually by the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee.
Bethel A.M.E. Pastor, Rev. Sidney Williams, blessed the group before they ventured out. The Morristown Department of Public Works contributed to the beautification by picking up the mounds of bags of collected litter.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office provided manpower for the extensive investigation that led to the takedown of a major fentanyl and heroin mill in Harrison whose alleged co-conspirators distributed drugs branded with stamps that have been linked to 84 fatal overdoses in the last year.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon appeared Thursday, March 21, with other law enforcement agencies at a press conference in Newark at which N.J. state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the arrests of three men in connection with the probe that seized about 32,500 individual doses of heroin and four kilos of fentanyl and heroin.
“I am proud that my office had a role in dismantling this life-destroying enterprise and I will continue to make ridding Morris County of narcotics and assisting people struggling with addiction priorities,” Sheriff Gannon said.
The Attorney General stated that narcotics were distributed in wax folds stamped with the same brand names that have been linked to 227 overdoses, including 84 deaths in the past year.
The Attorney General released the following details about the ongoing probe:
The arrests were made in an ongoing investigation by the New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force and the Division of Criminal Justice. They were assisted by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Cliffside Park Police, Nutley Police, Harrison Police and Newark Police.
The New Jersey State Police recently established the Opioid Enforcement Task Force, designed to strategically target heroin and fentanyl sources of supply across the state. In October, the Department of Law & Public Safety, New Jersey State Police, was awarded a $2.8 million grant for this Task Force from the Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Anti-Heroin Task Force Program.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, based on the evidence seized, it is estimated that the drug mill, set up in a luxury apartment at 300 Somerset Street in Harrison, was supplying 15,000 doses of fentanyl and heroin per day.
Timothy Guest, 45, of Irvington, N.J., allegedly operated the mill with associates working under him, including William Woodley, 27, of Belleville, N.J., and Selionel Orama, 25, of Cedar Grove, N.J. Those men were arrested on Thursday, March 14. They face first- and second-degree drug charges, including a charge of maintaining a narcotics production facility.
The Attorney General’s Office stated that the New Jersey State Police Opioid Enforcement Task Force was conducting surveillance in the area of the mill in Harrison on March 14 when they saw Guest leave the apartment building with a black duffel bag suspected to contain drugs and enter a Cadillac XTS. When State Police attempted to stop the Cadillac, Guest allegedly fled, striking two occupied troop cars. The Cadillac became disabled and detectives placed Guest under arrest. Meanwhile, Woodley and Orama fled from the mill building and also were arrested.
Investigators found 150 bricks of fentanyl in the black duffel bag in the Cadillac XTS. A brick consists of 50 individual doses of narcotics packaged in wax folds. Inside the drug mill, they seized three kilograms of fentanyl, one kilogram of heroin mixed with fentanyl, 500 bricks of fentanyl (approximately 25,000 individual doses containing fentanyl packaged for distribution), and drug milling equipment, including 29 coffee grinders, kilo presses, wax folds, and respirator masks.
When a pipe bursts, the air conditioning shuts down or a boiler breaks at the Morris County Correctional Facility, Warden Christopher Klein calls on two people whose vocabularies don’t include the word no.
Now, Warden Klein also calls the pair 2018 Employees of the Year of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Bureau of Corrections.
The honor goes to Bureau of Corrections Sergeant Shawn Johnston and Civilian Employee Lugene Melchiorri. They received plaques, three extra days off, and allotted parking spots for the duration of this year.
Warden Klein said he and bureau captains bestow the award every year on a sworn officer and a civilian employee who, simply stated, “Do a fantastic job.”
“There’s nobody else who knows this building like they do. Every nail, bolt and nut,” Warden Klein said.
Both Sergeant Johnston and Melchiorri work in the Support Services Division, which is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the 524-bed correctional facility that opened in May 2000. Both employees are available around-the-clock to perform or manage emergency repairs or maintenance and have been tackling for the past six months an overhaul of the 75 showers in the facility, Warden Klein said.
For security reasons, the correctional facility operates as a self-contained environment with most maintenance and repairs performed by in-house staff overseen by Sgt. Johnston. The challenges are growing as the facility ages, Warden Klein said.
“It makes me feel appreciated. It’s a real nice honor,” said Sgt. Johnston. He has worked at the Correctional Facility since 2005 and, besides managing maintenance of the facility and serving as its Fire Safety Director, is responsible for OSHA and Workers Compensation issues.
Sgt. Johnston even runs a snowplow around the parking lot in an emergency.
Melchiorri, a licensed plumber and heating/cooling technician, has worked for Morris County for 29 years and expects to retire in August. He worked five years at the antiquated former county jail before the modern correctional facility opened in 2000 in Morris Township.
“I love it here and enjoy all the people I work with,” Melchiorri said.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said the honor rewards two employees with extraordinary work ethics.
“I thank Sergeant Johnston and Mr. Melchiorri for their expertise and commitment to ensuring the Morris County Correctional Facility is kept in tremendous condition,” the Sheriff said.
Warden Klein said Melchiorri never hesitates to stay late or come into the facility when air conditioning, plumbing or heating falters, and that Sergeant Johnston is an officer whose skills and knowledge of the facility he relies on every day.