Alleged leader and 14 members of Newark drug-trafficking ring charged

NEWARK, NJ — Fifteen people have been charged for their alleged roles in a Newark heroin and crack-cocaine distribution organization that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs out of a residential building on Fairmount Avenue, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced June 29.

The alleged leader of the operation, Jakai Dennis, aka “Bop,” 31, of Newark, is charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. Dennis also is charged, along with the 15 other defendants, with one count each of conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin and 280 grams or more of crack-cocaine, and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. All of the defendants were arrested. 

The defendants are Dennis; Angel Kearney, aka “Jim” and “Dred,” 31; Thomas Gibson, aka “Tommy,” 44; Jamar Hall, aka “Goo,” 35; Kasim Thurston, aka “Kai” and “Kaz,” 37; Ibn Thurston, aka “Wheezy” and “Saheed,” 33; Antwan Williams, aka “Ant” and “Rue,” 30; Kevin Hall, 31; Andre Fuller, aka “Draco,” 31; Akim Gibson, aka “Ching,” 24; Shalamar McCall, aka “Shaggy,” 34; Hakis Moses, aka “Hak,” 43; Jaleel Drake, aka “Lil” and “SK,” 27; Elijah Shumate, aka “Eli” and “E,” 50; and David Williams, 51. All defendants live in Newark, except Kearney, who lives in East Orange, and Hall, who lives in Hamilton.

“This drug-trafficking organization attempted to take control of an entire neighborhood,” Honig said. “The defendants’ use of violence and intimidation made life intolerable for the community members who live there. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt operations like these and make our streets safer for the people who call Newark home.”

“The residents of this section of Fairmount Avenue have lived as a captive audience, watching their neighborhood degrade due to the daily drug dealing on their street and the unwelcome violence it brings,” FBI Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “As shootings and violent crime continue to escalate in this and other cities around the country, the FBI will remain vigilant, working with our law enforcement partners — including the Newark Police Department — to combat this ongoing epidemic.”

According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly ran a sophisticated operation that took advantage of the residential building’s location to sell drugs from the porch area, which was guarded by a locked steel door and difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate despite a constant stream of buyers approaching the front porch area day and night. One of the defendants was the building’s superintendent, who was allegedly paid in money and heroin to store drugs in his apartment and to give the other defendants access to an empty apartment on the second floor, which they also used to store drugs and guns.

The defendants worked in shifts from 6 a.m. until late in the evening. Buyers came on foot, in vehicles and on bicycles to purchase the illegal drugs. The heroin sold was of a high quality and was sold in various “brands,” which were stamped onto the glassine envelopes that contained the heroin, allowing buyers to identify and purchase the brands that they preferred. FBI surveillance witnessed hundreds of narcotics transactions from November 2020 to June 2021.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the FBI, which included surveillance, phone record review, the use of confidential informants to make more than 30 controlled purchases and the review of arrests by local law enforcement, as well as seizures of heroin, crack-cocaine and firearms. 

The count of running a continuing criminal enterprise carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. The count of conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin and 280 grams or more of crack-cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The charges and allegations contained in the federal criminal complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty.