New Jersey Man Admits Role in Drug Trafficking Organization

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TRENTON, NJ — A Mercer County, New Jersey man on Friday admitted his role as the leader of a Trenton drug-trafficking organization responsible for the distribution of heroin in the Trenton area, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Robert M. Gbanapolor, 35, of Trenton, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp to a superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a detectable amount of heroin.

Ten other members of this drug trafficking conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty in this case.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From June 2018 through May 2019, Gbanapolor and others engaged in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in the areas of Stuyvesant, Hoffman, and Highland avenues in Trenton, as well as in the area of Barbary Road in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gbanapolor obtained regular bulk supplies of heroin from Duane Paulino-Escalera, whom Gbanapolor referred to as “Papi.”  Gbanapolor, in turn, distributed this heroin for profit to other members of the drug-trafficking organization, who distributed the heroin in and around Trenton. Paulino-Escalera pleaded guilty in January 2020 and was sentenced on May 7, 2021, to five years in prison.

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The counts to which Gbanapolor pleaded guilty carry a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of 40 years in prison on each of Counts One and Three, and a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on Count Two. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 19, 2022.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, Camden Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; and task force officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Steve Wilson, with the investigation leading to Friday’s guilty plea. He also thanked detectives and officers of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Christine A. Hoffman; detectives and officers of the Gloucester Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Harkins; members of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives and officers of the Bordentown Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Brian Pesce; and special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey L. Matthews.

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This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric A. Boden and Alexander E. Ramey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.

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