Violent gang member sentenced to life in prison for murder, attempted murder

NEWARK, NJ — A high-ranking member of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips was sentenced Dec. 4 to two concurrent terms of life, plus 35 years, in federal prison for committing a murder, participating in a separate attempted murder, and conspiring to distribute heroin, all as part of a racketeering conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Another Grape Street Crips gang member was sentenced to 25 years in prison, plus 10 years of supervised release, for a RICO conspiracy that involved shooting at rival gang members and conspiracies to distribute heroin and crack-cocaine.

Tony Phillips, aka “Blue,” 28, was convicted at trial of 10 counts in a sixth superseding indictment, including murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, RICO conspiracy, using firearms during crimes of violence, and conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. The jury returned the verdict on the fourth day of deliberations following a two-month trial before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, who imposed the sentence in Newark federal court on Dec. 4.

Justin Carnegie, aka “Dew Hi,” “Dew” and “D,” 31, previously pleaded guilty before Arleo in Newark federal court to five counts in the sixth superseding indictment charging him with RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to possess a firearm, and separate conspiracies to distribute one kilogram of heroin and 280 grams or more of crack-cocaine.

Phillips and Carnegie were charged in November 2016 in a 22-count indictment charging 14 members and associates with, among other things, seven murders, numerous attempted murders, and numerous other violent and drug-trafficking crimes committed as part of the racketeering conspiracy. Thirteen of the 14 defendants charged in the indictment have been convicted and one is awaiting trial; the charges against him are merely accusations and he is considered innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law.

Another 66 members and associates of the Grape Street Crips who were arrested in a coordinated takedown in May 2015 were separately charged with drug trafficking, physical assaults and witness intimidation, and all have been convicted.

According to the documents filed in this case and other cases and the evidence presented at trial, in early 2013, the leader of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips authorized Phillips and other gang members to murder Tariq Johnson because Johnson had grown too close to Almalik Anderson, one of the gang’s chief rivals. Acting on these orders, on May 3, 2013, Phillips and another gang member shot Johnson multiple times in the head, while Johnson sat in front of them inside a car. Phillips and his conspirators then dumped Johnson’s body on a deserted street in Newark.

On Oct. 27, 2013, again acting on their gang leader’s orders, Phillips and three other gang members repeatedly shot and nearly killed Anderson and Saidah Goines, a bystander who was inside Anderson’s car.

In addition to orchestrating these acts of violence, Phillips conspired with other gang members to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.

Carnegie admitted that on Oct. 7, 2013, he and other gang members sought to avenge the murder of a fellow gang member who had recently been killed by rivals. Carnegie and his fellow gang members traveled to the area of Avon Avenue in Newark, where one of them fired 14 rounds in an attempt to shoot members of the rival gang. After returning to their staging area after the shooting, Carnegie and others fled law enforcement officers, who attempted to arrest them and their fellow gang members.

Carnegie and other gang members frequently used social media to promote the gang’s reputation for violence and drug trafficking. For example, Carnegie has the phrase “187 on all rats” tattooed on his back, a phrase meaning that cooperating witnesses ought to be murdered, as “187” is the California penal code section that defines the crime of murder.

Carnegie frequently carried and stockpiled firearms in furtherance of the gang’s activities. In May 2010, Carnegie stored a loaded Romarm SA Cugir 7.62×39 assault rifle and an American Industries Calico M100 .22LR carbine, along with ammunition for both weapons, in Orange.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson with the investigation. He also thanked the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II; police officers and detectives of the Newark Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose; and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, for their work on the case.