North Bergen man busted with $1.2M in drug money sentenced to 10 years in state prison


A North Bergen man arrested with $1.2 million dollars in drug money as part of a large-scale internet scheme back in March 2016 has been sentenced to 10 years in state prison, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced. 

Shazad Khan. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Shazad Khan, 35, of North Bergen was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including 42 months of parole ineligibility, by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr., Grewal said in a statement.

Khan pleaded guilty in June to first-degree money laundering.

Two years ago, Khan was arrested along with a tractor trailer driver, Jose Ruvalcaba, 31, of Oxnard, Calif., in a parking lot off Union Turnpike in North Bergen.

Detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice found approximately $1.2 million in cash in the trunk of Khan’s Infiniti, wrapped in bundles with duct tape. Khan met Ruvalcaba so that Ruvalcaba could transport the cash as payment for cocaine, authorities said.

Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was previously sentenced to seven years in prison.

The defendant was indicted with 11 alleged members and associates of a drug network that marketed cocaine and designer drugs online and distributed them through the mail.

They were charged in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice called “Operation Skin Deep.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Barile is prosecuting the defendants and handled the sentencing of Khan for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.

“Khan was arrested by the Division of Criminal Justice in one of the largest seizures of drug money in New Jersey law enforcement history – money that bought him a lengthy term in state prison,” Grewal said.

“I commend the detectives and prosecutors who conducted this far-reaching investigation, which started with street-level dealers in Atlantic City and expanded to uncover a multi-million dollar criminal syndicate that used the internet to market its drugs.”

Three top leaders of the drug ring previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced by Judge DeLury:

Christopher Castelluzzo, 33, of Lake Hopatcong, who formed and led the criminal organization, pleaded guilty to a first-degree charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network and was sentenced to 21 years in prison, including nearly 18 years of parole ineligibility.

Castelluzzo’s partner, Luke A. Atwell, 37, of Hamilton, who acted as managing partner of the drug ring, pleaded guilty to a first-degree charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network and was sentenced to 19 years in prison, including 16 years of parole ineligibility.

Finally, Aldo T. Lapaix, 31, of Absecon, who helped procure drugs for the ring and handled the packaging and shipping of drugs, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 8-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility on first-degree charges of racketeering and distribution of cocaine.

Six other ring members have pleaded guilty and received or face sentences ranging from five to 10 years in state prison.

Operation Skin Deep began when a detective of the Division of Criminal Justice identified individuals trafficking cocaine while monitoring the activities of white supremacist groups in Atlantic City.

The investigation into cocaine sales in Atlantic City ultimately exposed a network that was using the internet to arrange mail-order sales of cocaine and designer drugs, including ethylone, which is known as “M” and is similar to ecstasy.

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