East Orange, NJ, May 22, 2017: In what has been described as one of Essex County’s largest seizures of marijuana, East Orange police discovered a total of 1,470 budding plants in a four-car garage located in a single-family home not far from Soverel Park near Springdale Avenue. Authorities believe the entire pot production has an estimated street value of $2.95 million, according to city officials.
Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley said police discovered the sophisticated indoor marijuana farm shortly after 9am on Thursday, May 18, 2017 after responding to the report of an incident in the backyard of the home.
Sherline Dare, 37, who was taken into custody immediately after the discovery, was arrested and charged with the following counts:
· Maintaining a CDS Production Facility
· Distribution of CDS
· Possession with Intent to Distribute
· Possession of over 50 Marijuana Plants
· Distribution within 1,000 Feet of a School
· Distribution within 500 Feet of a Public Park
If convicted, Dare could face up to 25 years in prison. A warrant has been issued for her husband Densley Lawrence, 41, for the same counts. He remains at large. Anyone with information is asked to call the East Orange Police Tips Hotline at 973.266.5041.
Gregory Rutty, 56, also was arrested and charged with Possession of CDS under 50 Grams after marijuana and $1,736 in cash was found in his truck which was parked on the street in front of the home.
“This was a high-tech, high-level marijuana-growing operation, the size of which I have not seen in my over 25 years in law enforcement,” said Coley. “Grow houses like these often go unnoticed, even by next-door neighbors. Thank you to the State Police and Essex County Sheriff’s Office for all of their support in getting these illegal substances off our streets and out of our community.”
In the first 5 months of 2017, East Orange police have seized over $3M worth of drugs
This latest bust now brings the total street value of drugs seized by East Orange police in 2017 to $3,090,000. In the first five months of 2017, police executed 16 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of $83,400 in cocaine, $10,733 in heroin, $444 in Xanax, and $28,600 in meth. Police have also seized six (6) cars, 33 guns, and $82,700 in cash this year. Cash seizures are already up by 60% from 2016, said Police Chief Phyllis Bindi.
Last month, an undercover investigation dubbed “Operation Strike”, yielded the arrests of 13 people, over $318,000 worth of narcotics, $68,000 in cash, and seven (7) illegal weapons. That investigation was prompted by citizen complaints and anonymous tips.
Mayor Lester Taylor commended the Department of Public Safety and credited their success to intelligence-led and community-oriented policing.
“Since 2014, through the hard work and commitment of our officers, crime has continued a steady decrease, dropping 20% overall over the past two years. I pledged to provide our officers with the resources needed to enhance crime-fighting strategies and to implement preventative programs to foster mutual respect and cooperation,” said Taylor. “The brave men and women in law enforcement are a genuine reflection of our community, bound by shared experiences, rooted in common values and vested in the same goal of building a safer, stronger East Orange.”