NEWARK, N.J. - They had all the trappings of successful businessmen - nice homes, fancy cars and bulging bank accounts.
What they didn't have, federal authorities allege, was a legitimate source of income.
Capping a three-year investigation dubbed Operation Follow the Money, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced yesterday that it had shut down a multimillion-dollar North Jersey heroin-trafficking ring with the arrests of six individuals, including two men who were believed to be the driving force behind the operation.
A Newark policewoman, charged with making straw purchases to launder money for the group, also was charged.
"We knocked out their working capital and proceeds," said Gerard P. McAleer, special agent in charge of the New Jersey Division of the DEA.
McAleer said the organization moved about $2 million in heroin a month, primarily in the Essex and Union county areas, and generated about $7 million in profits annually.
He said the decision to track the financial end of the operation, including several money-laundering schemes, was part of an aggressive economic approach to combating drug traffickers.
The Internal Revenue Service and several other law-enforcement agencies also were involved in the probe.
Authorities identified Rasheem "Rosco" Small, 30, of Newark, and Abdullah "Rock" Myers, 33, of Cranford, as the principal targets of the investigation.
Each was charged with drug dealing and money laundering.
Small was described as the head of the heroin operation. Meyers, identified as a ranking member of a Newark-based set of the Bloods street gang, was accused of making major purchases and then using a network of distributors, including at least two other alleged members of the Bloods, to coordinate street-level sales.
Authorities arrested Small, Myers, policewoman Michelle Davis and three others during a series of raids yesterday in which $50,000 in cash, three handguns and five vehicles were seized.
Four other targets of the probe, including a New York man described as Small's main supplier, also were charged, but had not been located. They were listed as fugitives.
At a news conference here yesterday, authorities alleged that Small and Meyers had purchased properties and set up "legitimate" businesses as fronts, using drug proceeds.
Small opened a contracting company and Meyers started a trucking firm, but McAleer said neither appeared to have any customers.
Both men, however, lived well.
"They had all the bling that goes along with drug trafficking," said McAleer, describing jewelry, plasma televisions, custom-built motorcycles and other high-end vehicles - including a Porsche Cayenne SUV - seized in yesterday's raids.
Meyers, whose alleged gang operations were based in Newark, lived in a $600,000 home in Cranford.
Authorities said that Small had two personal bank accounts and that investigators had tracked deposits of $2.5 million into one and $2.27 million into the other.
Small's cars - often purchased through straw buyers - included a Mercedes-Benz SL500, a Range Rover and a Bentley.
Meyers owned a Lamborghini, a Dodge Viper and a Mercedes-Benz SUV at different times during the investigation, authorities alleged.
A wiretapped conversation cited in the criminal complaint made public yesterday detailed a discussion Meyers had last December about the possible purchase of a "James Bond Vanquish." The conversation included talk about a $72,000 down payment for the Aston Martin vehicle, which had a sticker price of $480,000.
Investigators also tracked Small to Atlantic City, where he allegedly used casinos to launder drug proceeds.
Between 2003 and 2006, the criminal complaint alleged, Small bought $3.1 million worth of casino chips. He gambled some, investigators said, but often would give other members of his organization the chips to cash in as winnings, sometimes even paying taxes on the earnings.