Four Members of Drug Trafficking Organization Charged with Fentanyl Analogue Distribution and Money Laundering Charges

A federal grand jury in 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 fentanyl analogues, a schedule I controlled substance, and synthetic cathinones, a schedule I controlled substance, also known as “bath salts,” to distribute in the United States. In addition, Panzara set up a shell company to send funds to China to purchase fentanyl analogues.

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The defendants are alleged to have initially received approximately two to three kilograms of narcotics at a time, concealed in parcels sent through the mail, before they began importing larger quantities of narcotics. According to court documents, law enforcement intercepted and seized one of these shipments, which contained approximately 50 kilograms of 4-Fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl fentanyl or 4-FIBF, a controlled substance analogue of fentanyl. Law enforcement also seized an additional approximately 18 kilograms of 4-FIBF from a location in Newark, where the defendants had concealed the drugs received from a prior shipment from China.

As alleged in the indictment, the defendants pressed the fentanyl-related substances into pills that resembled commercial pharmaceutical products and sold them. The indictment also alleges that they made cash deposits into their bank accounts to conceal the earnings from their illegal drug trafficking activities.

Defendant 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 domestic concealment money laundering conspiracy. If convicted on the narcotics offenses in Count One, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If convicted on the money laundering offenses in 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 the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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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 U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are 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 prosecuting the case.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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