Leader of Newark heroin distribution ring sentenced to 14 years in prison

NEWARK, NJ — A Newark man was sentenced June 27 to 14 years in prison for his leadership role in a massive drug distribution ring responsible for selling millions of dollars’ worth of heroin out of a residential building near a high school in Newark, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Quawee Jones, aka “Hatman,” 34, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to distribute heroin. Linares imposed the sentence June 27 in Newark federal court

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court, Jones and his co-defendants operated a heroin distribution marketplace out of the first floor hallway of a residential building at 25 Johnson Ave. in Newark. The building is just a few doors away from the Malcolm X. Shabazz High School and the Terrell James Park playground. The conspiracy was led by Jones and Almalik Anderson, who, along with other heroin dealers that worked with them, took advantage of the building’s location on a dead-end street, making it difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate the distribution network despite a constant stream of buyers entering the building at all hours of the day.

“Lookouts” were paid by the defendants to alert them to any police activity coming onto the block from the only access point on Clinton Avenue; police could not infiltrate the building without lookouts detecting their presence and signaling the sellers. Members of the drug-trafficking organization also set up an escape route whereby residents were paid to keep their doors unlocked. The dealers in the hallways would run through the building and exit via fire escapes at the rear of the building or simply hide within the apartments before police could apprehend them.

The drug conspiracy operated nearly 24 hours a day and was well-known among heroin users, who came from several different counties across New Jersey. The defendants allegedly worked in carefully planned “shifts” in order to handle the constant flow of heroin buyers. The heroin 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.

The defendants sold on average one to two kilograms of heroin per week between January 2013 and November 2015. Based upon the quantities sold, information from court-authorized wiretaps and other evidence, the profit from the heroin distribution was estimated to be between $4 million and $7 million each year.

In addition to the prison term, Linares sentenced Jones to five years of supervised release.

All 16 defendants indicted for their roles in the heroin distribution conspiracy, including Anderson, have been convicted.

Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers assigned to the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation. He also thanked officers of the Newark Department of Public Safety, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the N.J. State Parole Board and the Orange Police Department for their work on the investigation.