A federal grand jury for the District of New Jersey returned an indictment today charging four New Jersey men with narcotics distribution and money laundering offenses.
According to court documents, William Panzera, 49, of North Heldon; Thomas Padovano, 48, of Newark; Bartholomew Padovano, 71, of Newark; and Sean Tighe, 46, of Kearny; are alleged members of a drug trafficking organization that sent money and digital currency to China to purchase analogues of the Schedule I controlled substance fentanyl and synthetic cathinones, a controlled substance of Schedule I, also known as “bath salts”, for distribution in the United States. Additionally, Panzara set up a front company to send funds to China to purchase fentanyl analogues.
The defendants allegedly initially received around two to three kilograms of narcotics at a time, concealed in packages sent by post, before beginning to import larger quantities of narcotics. According to court documents, law enforcement intercepted and seized one such shipment, which contained approximately 50 kilograms of 4-Fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl fentanyl or 4-FIBF, a controlled substance analog of fentanyl. Law enforcement also seized about 18 additional kilograms of 4-FIBF at a location in Newark, where the defendants had concealed drugs received from a previous shipment from China.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants squeezed the fentanyl-related substances into pills that looked like commercial pharmaceuticals and sold them. The indictment also alleges that they made cash deposits into their bank accounts to conceal income from their illegal drug trafficking activities.
Defendants Panzara, Thomas Padovano, Bartholomew Padovano and Tighe were charged with drug trafficking conspiracy and international promotional money laundering conspiracy. Additionally, defendants Thomas Padovano and Bart Padovano were also charged with conspiracy to launder money for domestic concealment. If convicted of the narcotics offenses of Count 1, defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If convicted of the money laundering offenses of counts two and three, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger made the announcement.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Stephen Sola and Michael Khoo of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sammi Malek of the District of New Jersey are pursuing the case.
This lawsuit is part of an operation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OECDTF). Additional information about the OECDTF program is available at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
An indictment is only an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.