Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that 13 people were arrested during the predawn hours today, including two corrections officers, a probation officer and a special education teacher for orchestrating an elaborate criminal scheme to smuggle drugs, cell phones and other contraband to inmates in the Essex County Correctional Facility.
Among those to receive contraband smuggled into the jail was Wilbert Best, 21, of Newark, an inmate awaiting trial for murder. Best also took orders from other inmates.
“After a five month investigation, dubbed ‘Operation Jail Breach,’ today we arrested law enforcement officers who violated their sworn oath. Among other charges, these individuals are accused of smuggling drugs, cell phones and other contraband into the Essex County Jail,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino. “By engaging in this scheme, other officers, inmates and witnesses were potentially put at risk.’’
“The mastermind of this operation, Joseph Mastriani, who has been a corrections officer for nine years, was so brazen he allegedly picked up contraband from sources on the street while armed and in uniform,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.
Information gathered through the investigation revealed that Mastriani, 30, of Nutley would arrange with a third party in the community to meet with a go-between. As orders were placed by inmates, instructions would be given to Mastriani to give to a third person.
Heroin, marijuana, prescription drugs and cell phones were smuggled into the prison by Mastriani. Inmates would pay $500 for the items. The investigation revealed that at one point Mastriani was making as much as $1,000 a week smuggling contraband into the prison.
Early this morning, Mastriani was arrested as he reported to work at the Essex County jail. He was charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws, official misconduct and a pattern of official misconduct.
Also arrested this morning was Mastriani’s girlfriend, Jill Watral, 31, of Nutley. Watral is a special education teacher at Washington Academy in Cedar Grove. She was charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.
Essex County Corrections Officer William Rupp, 30, of Bloomfield was charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws. He has been a corrections officer for seven years.
John C. Smith, 33, of Rockaway, a Union County probation officer, was also charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.
Charges of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws were also lodged against Chang Park, 25, Anthony Rotonda, 39, Joseph Lehman, 25, and Robert Koval Jr., 31, all of Bloomfield.
Shannon Arguello-Falke, 25, of South Amboy, who was married to a retired corrections officer, was also charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.
Rose Guinyard, 29, of Newark was charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws. She is the girlfriend of Best, the inmate charged with murder. Best was also charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.
Madeline Rodriguez, 39, of Newark, a reputed associate of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation was arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws. She is the girlfriend of Ricardo Ortiz, 32, of Newark, an inmate in the jail who was also charged with conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws. Ortiz is a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. He is in jail on burglary charges. Ortiz took orders from other inmates for drugs and cell phones.
“Let me be perfectly clear: as this case demonstrates, whenever there is an allegation of police misconduct, my office will thoroughly investigate it and when substantiated, will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law, no matter which department the officer belongs to. The citizens of this county deserve nothing less,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.
The investigation was led by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Professional Standards and Corruption Bureau and Intelligence Unit in conjunction with the Essex County Correctional Internal Affairs Unit. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office also received assistance from the FBI and from the prosecutor’s offices in Bergen, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties. Assistance was also provided by the Newark Police Emergency Response Team and the State Police K-9 Unit.
Bail, ranging from $20,000 to $200,000, was set by the Honorable Peter J. Vazquez.
These are mere accusations. All defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.