Editor's Note: The following information is a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.
An Elizabeth man was sentenced to serve 30 years in a New Jersey state prison with no chance of parole for 15 years for operating a drug trafficking ring that possessed $400,000 worth of heroin destined for distribution to customers in Middlesex and Somerset counties, said
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan.
Johnel Dunlap, 41, was sentenced on Nov. 13 after pleading guilty on Sept. 27 to a first degree count of being the leader of a narcotics trafficking network.
The term was imposed by Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz after a plea agreement was reached with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christine D’Elia and Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Akesha Williams.
As part of the plea agreement, Dunlap also pleaded guilty to a second degree statute that prohibits certain persons from possessing firearms. He was sentenced to a 10-year term, to run concurrently with the drug trafficking count, for having a 9mm pistol during a search of his home and automobiles in Elizabeth on March 26, 2010, even though he previously had been convicted and incarcerated for drug offenses in 2003.
Dunlap was among nine defendants who were arrested in 2010 following a series of court-ordered searches in which investigators from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as police from local departments including New Brunswick and Franklin Township, seized more than 10 ounces of heroin valued at $400,000.
Also pleading guilty in September were top-level narcotics traffickers, identified as Dunlap’s brother, William Newbill, 32, also of Elizabeth, and Ernest Bates, 36, of New Brunswick.
Newbill and Bates each pleaded guilty to a second degree count of conspiring to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and a first degree count of distributing heroin. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 3.
Newbill will be sentenced to serve 20 years in a New Jersey state prison and will not be eligible for parole until he serves 62 months.
Bates will be sentenced to an 18-year prison term, with no chance of parole for 50 months.
The drug trafficking ring was initially uncovered during an investigation that was begun by authorities in Somerset County in October 2009.
A Middlesex County grand jury subsequently charged nine defendants with drug offenses, contending they distributed and conspired to distribute various quantities of heroin to residents in the two counties.
Investigators also determined that Newbill and Bates regularly obtained heroin from Dunlap, and then distributed it to other individuals named in the indictment that was handed up by the grand jury on July 31, 2010.