Some of the suspects arrested in a recent massive heroin sweep had ties to Asbury Park, according to Police Chief Mark Kinmon.
“We were involved with the investigation, so we’ve been there from the start by assisting,” Kinmon said.
The heroin ring was led mostly by members of factions of the Bloods street gang, Kinmon said.
“Any time you take gang members and people involved with drug distribution off of the street, it’s a good thing for the entire community, especially something on this level,” Kinmon said.
Those arrested were mostly Long Branch and Newark residents, although one of the main suppliers — Hakiem Wadud — at one point resided in Asbury Park and “certainly had contact with the police department in the past,” Kinmon said. Some other people involved in the ring had similar ties to the city.
The city benefits from such a massive drug bust because gangs in Asbury could be weakened due to arrests of Long Branch and Newark Bloods, Kinmon said.
“It just knocks out a lot of the power within the organization,” he said.
The chief is pleased with the results of the eight-month-long investigation.
“We took in a lot of dangerous people with this,” he said. “When you distribute heroin that’s so addictive, you are affecting so many lives … [The arrests] make the community a little bit safer, and we certainly were also able to get guns off the street.”
52 people were charged today [Dec. 17] in a massive heroin sweep undertaken by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and a number of other law enforcement agencies, Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced. Some of those arrested are members of a gang known as the “Fruit Town Brims,” a set of the “Bloods” street gang responsible for the distribution of significant quantities of heroin throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
The eight-month investigation, titled “Operation Hats Off,” began last spring after the Office received information regarding gang activity and heroin distribution occurring in the shore area. During the investigation, members of the Fruit Town Brims and their conspirators orchestrated and/or personally sold approximately 200 bricks (10,000 bags) of heroin per week, including more than 1,000 bags of heroin to undercover detectives on dozens of occasions.
Overall, the criminal enterprise was responsible for the trafficking of more than 4,000 (200,000 bags) bricks of heroin during the course of the investigation. Law enforcement seized more than 300 bricks (15,000 bags) of heroin and approximately 17,000 in U.S. currency. A brick is a package containing fifty bags of heroin. In total, the heroin seized alone has an estimated street value of more than $150,000.
To date, 41 of the 52 defendants charged have been taken in custody. All of the defendants arrested were remanded to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in lieu of bail, set by the Honorable Lawrence M. Lawson, A.J.S.C. Bails continue to be set by Judge Lawson throughout the day as defendants appear in court.
Two of the ringleaders of the criminal enterprise — Ronald Daniels, Jr., 23, of Long Branch and Anna Flores, 21, of Highlands — conspired with several other gang members to distribute heroin throughout the County and elsewhere. Those other members include: Christopher Moon, 21, of Highlands; Ezra Strong, 22, of Long Branch; Donte Gilliard, 22, of Long Branch; Dashawn Graves, 20, of Newark; Damier Johnson, 22, of Long Branch; and Hakeem Wadud, 22, of Paterson. These defendants, along with a number of others, were charged with racketeering conspiracy for their involvement in the ongoing criminal enterprise.
The primary heroin suppliers for the above-mentioned defendants were Hassain Jenkins, 39, of Orange, Roger Barber, 40, of Newark, and Louis Pennington, a/k/a “Gangsta,” 29, of Long Branch. Daniels and other members of the Fruit Town Brims gang arranged for the repeated purchase and transport of large quantities of heroin from Essex County and, once received, the product was sold to a number of buyers throughout the area. As set forth in the attached chart, buyers charged as part of the operation resided in several locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including towns such as Oceanport, West Long Branch, Rumson, Eatontown, Red Bank, Bayville, Little Silver and Sea Bright.
During the course of this investigation, law enforcement officers developed information that led to seizures of significant amounts of heroin, cash and firearms from members of this criminal enterprise. For example, on November 19, law enforcement officers recovered approximately 100 bricks of heroin from an automobile in Eatontown during a routine vehicle stop. On December 13, law enforcement officers stopped Jenkins and Barber on the eastbound side of Route 36 in Tinton Falls. During that stop, officers recovered two packages, each containing 100 bricks (5,000 bags) of heroin. As a result, both Jenkins and Barber were charged with narcotics-related offenses and remain incarcerated at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in lieu of bail.
Similarly, on December 13, officers executed a search warrant at 245 Atlantic Avenue, Apartment 219 in Long Branch. While executing the warrant, officers recovered approximately 130 bricks (6,500 bags) of heroin and approximately $10,000 in cash. The estimated value of the heroin recovered is $130,000. Three individuals at the residence – Michael Marshall, 62 of Long Branch, Tau Kamau, a/k/a “Kevin Smith,” 40, of Long Branch, and Ronald Daniels, Sr., 42, of Long Branch – were charged with narcotics-related offenses and also remain incarcerated at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in lieu of bail. Searches simultaneously executed on December 17 at 1401 Rustic Drive, Apt. 13 in Ocean Township, and 22 Fourth Street in Highlands, resulted in the seizure of additional quantities of narcotics, firearms and cash.
To date, law enforcement has seized three firearms and five vehicles used in support of the criminal enterprise. Quantities of cocaine and marijuana were also seized during the course of the investigation.
The following individuals remain at large as of this date: Bobbie Cooney, 29, of Atlantic Highlands; James Everham, 53, of Red Bank; Donte Gilliard, 22, of Long Branch; Renee Guisti, 21, of Long Branch; Damier Johnson, 22, of Long Branch; Rhonda Johnson, 40, of Long Branch; Sofia Johnson, 26, of Long Branch; Michael Marshall, 62, of Long Branch, Jasmine McLeod, 24, of Highlands; Steven Worsley, Sr., 40, of Long Branch; and Nelson Alberts, 48, of Long Branch.
Notwithstanding these arrests, the investigation into the criminal activities of this criminal enterprise remains active and is continuing. Members of the public with information regarding criminal activity by any of those individuals arrested should contact Captain Albert DeAngelis of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office via the radio room at 1-800-533-7443. Photographs of the individuals arrested are attached to this news release to assist members of the public in ascertaining whether they possess information regarding these individuals’ activities.
The charges brought as a result of Operation Hats Off carry the following sentences:
2nd degree racketeering conspiracy – up to 20 years’ in State Prison. 1st degree gang criminality – consecutive 15 to 30 years’ in State Prison. 1st degree possession of a CDS with intent to distribute – up to 20 years in State Prison. 2nd degree unlawful possession of a firearm – up to 10 years in State Prison. 2nd degree possession of a CDS with intent to distribute – up to 10 years in State Prison. 3rd degree possession of a CDS with intent to distribute – up to 5 years in State Prison. 3rd degree distribution of a CDS – up to 5 years in State Prison. 3rd degree possession of a CDS – up to 5 years in State Prison.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and State law.
Acting Prosecutor Gramiccioni credited numerous law enforcement agencies for their assistance in this investigation, including: The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office; the Long Branch Police Department; the Asbury Park Police Department; the Neptune Township Police Department; the Tinton Falls Police Department; the Deal Police Department; the Highlands Police Department; the Ocean Township Police Department; the Wall Township Police Department; the Belmar Police Department; the Eatontown Police Department; the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office; the United States Marshal’s Service; and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Matthews of the Office’s Narcotics and Criminal Enterprises Division.
Released: December 17.