Manalapan man pleads guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute
Ocean County Attorney Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on Jan. 26 Mark Kelber, 45, of Manalapan, pleaded guilty before the Honorable Lisa A. Puglisi, JSC, to possession of cocaine in excess of five ounces with the intention of distributing it. Upon his sentencing on March 24, 2023, the state will be seeking a ten-year prison sentence in New Jersey State Prison.
“Operation Checkmate” was a four-month, multi-jurisdictional, cooperative investigation conducted by the Ocean County Attorney’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, United States Drug Enforcement Administration – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Group 5, by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force and New Jersey State Police – Trafficking Central Unit, in concert with many other state, county and local law enforcement agencies. The Ocean County Attorney’s Office Narcotics Strike Force handled and directed three concurrent multi-agency investigations into high-level cocaine distribution in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties, as well as New York City. In the course of these investigations, approximately 50 additional law enforcement personnel were assigned full-time to the Ocean County Attorney’s Office Narcotics Strike Force. Various agencies, both inside and outside Ocean County, assisted in every aspect of all three investigations. The investigations, identified as “Operation Checkmate”, began in July 2021 and concluded in October 2021.
The three cocaine networks were responsible for importing over three kilograms of cocaine per week into the Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex County areas. Through sophisticated surveillance methods and undercover agents, “Operation Checkmate” was successful in disrupting and disrupting the illegal Controlled Hazardous Substances (CDS) distribution activities in these three counties, plus New York City. On October 26, 2021, “Operation Checkmate” resulted in the arrest of 24 people for various offenses involving the distribution of controlled hazardous substances. Additionally, 24 search warrants were executed resulting in the seizure of over four kilograms of cocaine, over 15 pounds of marijuana, over $650,000 in U.S. currency, seven firearms (three handguns, three “ghost pistols” and a pistol grip rifle), ten vehicles and other illegal narcotics.
On October 26, 2021, investigators executed a court-authorized search warrant at Kelber’s residence in Manalapan. As a result, investigators seized approximately 265 grams of cocaine and $24,325 in U.S. currency. Kelber was transported to the Ocean County Jail and later released as a result of New Jersey’s bail reform.
Attorney Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Chief Drug Enforcement Attorney William Porter and Assistant Attorney Stephen Burke who are handling the case on behalf of the State, and also acknowledges the following agencies for their cooperative assistance and cooperation with the Narcotics Strike Force of the Ocean County Attorney’s Office in connection with this investigation: Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Ocean County Attorney’s Office; Ocean County Regional SWAT Team; United States Drug Administration – HIDTA Group 5; Monmouth County Attorney’s Office Narcotics Strike Force; New Jersey State Police – Central Traffic Unit; New Jersey State Police Squads Unit; New Jersey Air National Guard Anti-Drug Task Force; Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotic Units; Atlantic County Attorney’s Office Narcotics Task Force; Matawan District Police Department; Matawan District Police Department K-9 unit; Keyport District Police Department; Manalapan Municipality Police Department; Ocean County Sheriff’s Office; Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Field Services Unit; Ocean County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit; Barnegat Town Police Department; Brick Township Police Department Street Crimes Unit; Brick Township Police Department Special Response Team; Brick Township Police Department K-9 unit; Beachwood District Police Department; Berkeley City Police Department; Jackson Township Police Department; Lakewood Township Police Department Drug Enforcement Unit; Lakewood Township Police Department Special Response Team; Lakewood Township Police Department K-9 unit; Manchester Township Police Department Special Enforcement Team; Ocean Township Police Department (Waretown); Point Pleasant Borough Police Department; South Toms River Police Department; Stafford Township Police Department; Toms River Township Police Department Special Enforcement Unit; Toms River Township Police Department Emergency Services Unit; Toms River Township Police K-9 Unit; Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office; Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Unit K-9; Aberdeen Township Police Department; Asbury Park Police Department; Hazlet Township Police Department; Hazlet Township Police Department K-9 unit; Keansburg District Police Department; City of Marlboro Police Department; Middletown Township Police Department; Sea Bright Borough Police Department; Old Bridge Township Police Department – Bureau of Narcotics; Union Beach Borough Police Department; Union Beach Borough Police Department K-9 unit; New York City Police Department – 50th Precinct Field Intelligence Office; and the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.