A condemned building on Johnson Avenue in Newark was home to what officials called a 24-hour illegal drug operation that sold millions of dollars’ worth of the drug, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Among those arrested and charged today are the two alleged leaders of the operations – Almalik Anderson and Quawee Jones (see chart below), who are charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. They are also charged, along with the 13 other defendants, with one count each of conspiracy to distribute heroin. The nine defendants who are in custody are scheduled to have their initial court appearances later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court. Six defendants remain at large.
“The charges in the complaint describe a 24/7 illegal drug bazaar that has operated in the middle of a residential neighborhood for years,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “This location is just a few doors away from the playing fields of Malcolm X. Shabazz High School and the playground and basketball courts of Terrell James Park. Law abiding citizens shouldn’t have to worry about drug dealing where their children are trying to learn and play. Today’s arrests culminate a coordinated effort by our office, the FBI and local law enforcement to shut down this scourge, and to help reclaim the neighborhood.”
“Almalik Anderson operated a multi-million dollar heroin business out of a residential building in Newark which was ‘closed’ for business today by the FBI and our partners on the Safe Streets Task Force,” Richard M Frankel, FBI special agent in charge, Newark, said. “We are confident taking Anderson and his crew off the streets of Newark will have direct impact on reducing violent crime in the city.”
According to the complaint:
This drug-trafficking group operated out of a residential building at 25 Johnson Ave., Newark. The defendants allegedly ran a sophisticated operation that 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 streams of buyers entering the building at all hours of the day and night. “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 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. In addition to being paid to keep their doors unlocked, residents were also paid not to report to law enforcement the drug-trafficking activity that was open and notorious within the building’s public areas.
The drug operation worked out of the first floor hallway of the building nearly 24 hours a day and was well-known among heroin users, who came from long distances in several different counties throughout New Jersey. The defendants allegedly worked in carefully planned “shifts” of approximately five distributors in order to handle the constant flow of heroin buyers. The heroin sold was of a high quality and, thus, attracted numerous 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 February 2015 and November 2015, the investigation revealed.
Based upon the quantities sold, information from court-authorized wiretaps of the two leaders’ phones, and other evidence obtained in the case, the profit from the heroin distribution at 25 Johnson Avenue is estimated to be between $4 million and $7 million a year. The charges are the result of an investigation led by the FBI, which included court-authorized wiretaps, numerous undercover recorded purchases of heroin from at least 15 different individuals inside the building, and seizures of heroin and guns.
The count of running a continuing criminal enterprise carries a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.