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Massive Multi-County Drug Bust Yields 10 Arrests

Ten suspects from six towns from Asbury Park to Cherry Hill face charges in a drug-busting operation that yielded more than 140 pounds of marijuana, says Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.

Operation Weed Whacker Contraband (Ocean County Prosecutor's Office)
Operation Weed Whacker Contraband (Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

Operation Weed Whacker, a two-month probe that involved 18 law-enforcement units in Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex and Camden Counties. Investigators say that in addition to the contraband marijuana, they also confiscated a Makarov .380 caliber handgun, more than $500,000, scales and packaging equipment.

Facing various drug possession and distribution charges are Ahmad Ahmed, 23; Jason Smith, 24; Justin Nungesser, 34; Catherine Sandoval, 30; and Samantha Stinson, 24, all  of Toms River; James Lowther, 41, of Brick; Gordon Malkowski, 40, of Asbury Park; Michael Merwin, 28, of Belmar; Joseph T. Irons II, 30, of Eatontown; and Deshon Hardy, 33, of Cherry Hill.

Irons and Merwin were charged with possession and intent to distribute more than 25 pounds of marijuana. Bail for Irons was set at $250,000, and for Merwin $150,000.

Hardy’s bail was set at $250,000, cash only, on counts of possession and intent to distribute more than 25 pounds of marijuana.

Nungesser’s bail was also set at $150,000 on charges of possession and intent to distribute over 25 pounds of marijuana, along with a count of possession of paraphernalia including scales and packaging materials.

Ahmed was charged with possession and intent to distribute more than five pounds of marijuana. His bail was set at $50,000 with no option for release on payment of 10 percent.

Malkowski faces counts of possession and intent to distribute over five pounds of marijuana, possession of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute over five pounds of marijuana within a school zone and paraphernalia. His bail was set at $5,000 with no 10 percent option.

Smith was charged with possession with intent to distribute over five pounds of marijuana. Lowther was charged with possession with intent to distribute more than an ounce but less than five pounds of marijuana, along with possession and paraphernalia. Stinson was charged with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. All three were released on summonses.

Sandoval was released on her own recognizance, charged with possession and intent to distribute more than 25 pounds of marijuana.

The operation established probable cause to search homes and businesses in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties. They include a garage rented by Smith on Route 547 in Jackson; a storage unit on Route 9 in Old Bridge; and homes occupied by Smith and Stinson, Lowther, Malkowski, and Nungesser.

Members of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Special Operations Group also confiscated a 2006 silver Toyota Avalon registered to Malkowski; a 2007 silver Audi RS4 belonging to Smith; a 2006 black Chevrolet Suburban owned by Nungesser; and a 2006  gray BMW 750 driven by Hardy. Forfeiture proceedings are pending on all four.

Agencies involved in the probe include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Camden HIDTA Division; the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Financial Crimes Unit; the Ocean County Sheriff’s K-9 division; the narcotics task forces  of the Monmouth and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s offices; the Monmouth Prosecutor’s Gang Crimes Unit; the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office; Brick Township Police Drug Enforcement, Emergency Services and K-9 units; Toms River Police Emergency Services, K-9, and Operations teams; Lakewood Police Street Crimes and Emergency Services; Jackson, Old Bridge, Asbury Park and Piscataway Police.

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