OCEAN CITY – A New Jersey man taken down by Ocean City police in February as the kingpin of a major oxycodone distribution network covering three states pleaded guilty last week in federal court to a drug conspiracy charge and now faces as many as 20 years in jail and a fine up to $1 million.
Joseph Bimonte, 45, of Freehold, N.J., pleaded guilty last Thursday to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, also known as Oxycontin, Roxicodone and Percocet, to street-level dealers working in Ocean City for over a year from May 2007 to August 2008. Bimonte now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and a fine up to $1 million. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 29, 2010.
OCPD detectives initiated the investigation, which began in April 2007, after they learned large quantities of oxycodone pills, in the form of oxycontin, roxicodone and percocet, were being distributed in the Ocean City area. OCPD detectives enlisted the help of federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials after learning the scope of the investigation reached far beyond Ocean City’s jurisdiction.
Throughout the investigation, an OCPD undercover narcotics detective was able to make 14 individual hand-to-hand purchases for more than 600 oxycodone pills from the suspects in the case including nine from the alleged kingpin in the drug distribution ring, identified as Bimonte.
According to the plea agreement reached last week, Bimonte sold large amounts of oxycodone to the OCPD detective on nine different occasions from July 19, 2007 to April 26, 2008. In total, from May 2007 to August 2008, Bimonte sold tens of thousands of milligrams of oxycodone to undercover narcotics detectives, or roughly the equivalent of 400 to 700 kilograms of marijuana, according to federal prosecutors.
On July 19, 2007, the undercover officer received an unsolicited telephone call from Bimonte during which the kingpin agreed to supply the detective with additional pills. Later that evening, Bimonte sold 10 oxycontin pills to the detective for $250 and the next day offered to supply him with as many as 200 pills for $30 each. According to the plea agreement, Bimonte offered to front-fund the purchase, telling the undercover agent “dealing drugs was about making money, not getting high.”
Incidentally, Bimonte and his family were once featured on the television reality show “Wife Swap.” In addition, during the same time period Bimonte was linked to four supplementary pharmaceutical drug diversion cases in the Ocean City area and has been charged in U.S. District Court for those offenses as well.
OCPD detectives, with the cooperation of the DEA and law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions including Delaware and New Jersey, began to build a case against Bimonte and his co-conspirators in the drug ring including Gene Sams, 38, of Ocean City; Brian West, 27, of Salisbury; John Tarr, 28, of Fenwick Island; and Tyler Hays, 22, of Ocean City.
On Aug. 29, 2008, the federal grand jury for the District of Maryland handed down a 12-count indictment charging Bimonte with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of oxycodone. Bimonte was arrested on Sept. 19, 2008 in Newark, N.J. after investigators executed a search and seizure warrant on his residence and recovered numerous prescription pill bottles for oxycodone.
Bimonte’s four co-conspirators are also facing several counts of illegal drug distribution charges for their roles in the oxycodone distribution network, although the status of the cases against them are not known.