40 Charged in Investigation Targeting Drug Dealing in Violent Newark Neighborhoods
TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor today announced charges against 40 people as a result of an investigation into a drug distribution network linked to the Bloods street gang that operated in two violent Newark neighborhoods. The investigation, which resulted in arrests of the leaders of the ring, also uncovered smuggling of cell phones and drugs into Northern State Prison.
The charges stem from Operation Red Storm, an 18-month investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the Boonton Police Department, Newark Police Department, New Jersey Department of Corrections and New Jersey State Police.
Detectives and officers of the Division of Criminal Justice, Newark Police Department, Boonton Police and Department of Corrections arrested 19 individuals yesterday at various locations. Ten other defendants were arrested previously in the investigation. Another 11 defendants are being sought on arrest warrants or summonses. Detectives have seized more than 250 “bricks” of heroin, over a kilogram of cocaine, more than $60,000 in cash, four semi-automatic handguns, an assault rifle, and four vehicles.
The investigation focused on a network that was distributing heroin and cocaine in two sections of Newark: the Fabyan Avenue area and the “Chadwick Corridor” including Avon and Chadwick Avenues. The Chadwick Corridor has been identified by the Newark Police Department as one of the most violent districts in the city. Among those arrested are two Newark men alleged to be leaders of the network: Ameer Thompson, 28, and Cardeia “Fatboy” Harrell, 33. The investigation also resulted in charges against a cook employed at Northern State Prison, Elijah Harris, 35, of Newark, and an inmate, Norman Willie Wade, 45, who allegedly were smuggling drugs and cell phones into the prison to sell to inmates.
“We have arrested the alleged leaders and numerous other members of a drug network linked to the Bloods, which used guns to control its turf in two particularly violent sections of Newark,” said Attorney General Dow. “Our goal in taking down this criminal network is to disrupt its drug trafficking activities and make these neighborhoods safer.”
“This is another great example of an intelligence-led investigation involving cooperation among state and local law enforcement agencies,” said Director Taylor. “We will continue to make such investigations a priority in our efforts to combat drug trafficking and violent street gangs.”
“I commend the dedicated and cooperative efforts of all the law enforcement agencies that took part in this exhaustive investigation,” said Director Garry McCarthy of the Newark Police Department. “Today’s arrests are another step toward ridding our city of violent, habitual offenders who have little regard for the law or the neighborhoods they attempt to control,” he concluded.
“I commend the law enforcement agencies whose collaborative efforts throughout this investigation led to these charges,” said Commissioner Gary M. Lanigan of the Department of Corrections. “Bringing a cell phone – not to mention narcotics – into a prison is rightfully classified as a criminal offense, and the individuals responsible have been appropriately charged. This is just the latest example of why the passage of the Safe Prisons Communication Act, which would allow cell phone jamming in prisons under specific circumstances, is so critically important. Passage of the bill would mean that even if an inmate managed to acquire a cell phone, it would be useless in a prison setting.”
“Operation Red Storm was a first class undertaking from start to finish,” said Boonton Police Chief Mike Beltran. “It is an outstanding example of teamwork among law enforcement agencies large and small in engaging drug trafficking activity that affected not only Newark but suburban regions also. The Boonton Police Department was glad to participate in the success of the operation. We thank Detective Renshaw and the other members of the Division of Criminal Justice team who worked with our detective on the case. Their professionalism and work ethic made the difference.”
Thompson was arrested today. He is charged with first-degree offenses, including leading a narcotics trafficking network, distribution of narcotics, and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. The charge of leading a narcotics trafficking network carries a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. Harrell is charged with distribution of narcotics and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, both in the second degree.
Harrell was arrested on June 10 along with Aaron Watson, 33, of Newark, as the two men allegedly met to conduct a drug transaction. Watson allegedly had 171 grams of cocaine and two bricks of heroin in a hidden compartment in his vehicle, along with bylaws and other documents related to the Brick City Brims set of the Bloods. He allegedly had $2,000 on his person. Harrell allegedly had $2,304 on his person, and $8,000 in a hidden compartment of his car.
A search warrant was executed that day at Watson’s apartment, where detectives allegedly seized approximately a kilo of cocaine, 12 bricks of heroin, $40,255 in cash, a scale and narcotics packaging materials. Watson is charged with first-degree offenses of distribution of narcotics and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. Search warrants were executed at eight other locations. Arrests made yesterday resulted in the recovery of additional drugs, three handguns, one assault rifle and $6,000 in cash.
Elijah Harris was arrested on June 11 by members of the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division and New Jersey State Police. Harris is charged with bribery, official misconduct, conspiracy to distribute heroin, and providing a cell phone to a prison inmate, all second-degree offenses.
Wade is charged with second-degree conspiracy for allegedly conspiring with Harris to distribute narcotics and cell phones in the prison.
A Newark woman who is employed as a state corrections officer at Northern State Prison, Gale Bishop, 53, is charged with second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute. The charge relates to alleged conduct that occurred outside of the prison.
The remaining defendants are charged with second- and third-degree offenses of drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute. A full list of the defendants and charges is attached to this release.
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