Eight Members of Stephen Crane Village Drug Trafficking Conspiracy Charged in 37-Count Superseding Indictment

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NEWARK, N.J. – Eight of the 12 people arrested for their roles as members and associates of a drug trafficking organization in the Stephen Crane Village Housing Complex in Newark were indicted today, including one defendant who was indicted for the murder of a conspirator, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

A federal grand jury returned a 37-count superseding indictment charging Gary Shahid, 61; Jose Lora, 23; Charles Mells, 37; Raquan Rawls, 22; James Wicker, 28; Dayquan Jordan, 26; Michael Mayse, 34, and Dayana Valderrama, 25, as follows:

 

In February 2020, Shahid, Lora, Mells, Rawls, Wicker, Jordan, and Mayse – all Newark residents – along with four other members of a drug trafficking conspiracy operating in Newark, were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base. Jordan, Rawls, Williams, Hatcher, and Mayse were charged with an additional count for distribution of heroin and cocaine base. Mayse was charged with committing murder during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. 


Lora, and his girlfriend, Valderrama, were charged by separate complaints with unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 

On March 6, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Shahid for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Ricky Terrell, 24; Nasir Williams, 23; Quadir Hatcher, 28; and Tyree Purkett, 24, who were previously charged by the same criminal complaint in February 2020, have each pleaded guilty to an information for their role in the drug trafficking organization.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Crane Village is a public housing complex near Branch Brook Park, on the border with Belleville. It consists of standalone buildings, with 354 apartments in total, all of which are accessible via exterior entrances. The buildings are clustered around courtyards and pedestrian walkways with roadways bisecting the complex. Given its location and its layout, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to surveil, Crane Village is the site of an open-air drug market. Between February 2019 and February 2020, law enforcement officers investigated the organization that controlled this drug market.

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Through numerous controlled purchases of narcotics, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical surveillance, and the analysis of telephone call detail records, law enforcement determined that the defendants conspired to distribute narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base, in and around Crane Village.

The organization used a drug stash apartment in Crane Village to package and store drugs for distribution. On Dec. 15, 2019, Mayse entered the stash apartment and allegedly murdered a conspirator over a monetary debt relating to the distribution of narcotics.

The count of possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl carries a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, maximum penalty of life in prison, and a fine of at least $10 million. The count of conspiracy to distribute at least 28 grams of cocaine base and a quantity of heroin and fentanyl carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a fine of at least $5 million. The counts of distribution of, and/or possession with intent to distribute, 100 grams or more of heroin, 500 grams or more of cocaine, and 28 grams or more of cocaine base each carry a  mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a fine of at least $5 million.  The counts of distribution of, and/or possession with intent to distribute, a quantity of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

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The counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and/or ammunition each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime each carry a mandatory minimum term of 5 years in prison, which must run consecutive to any other punishment, and a fine of $250,000. The count of maintaining a drug premises carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. The count of causing death through the use of a firearm is eligible for the death penalty, or a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a $250,000 fine. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents and task force officers with the ATF, Newark Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Toby C. Taylor; the Belleville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Minichini; special agents and task force officers of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark; the Newark Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II; and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. She also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service, the Nutley Police Department, the Bloomfield Police Department, the West Orange Police Department, the Verona Police Department, the Orange Police Department and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance with this case.

This case is part of the Newark Violent Crime Initiative (VCI). The VCI was formed in August 2017 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and the City of Newark’s Department of Public Safety for the purpose of combatting violent crime in and around Newark. Federal, state, county, and city agencies collaborate and pool resources to prosecute violent offenders who endanger the safety of the community. The VCI is composed of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals, the Newark Department of Public Safety, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, N.J. State Parole, Union County Jail, N.J. State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center/Real Time Crime Center, N.J. Department of Corrections, the East Orange Police Department, and the Irvington Police Department.

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This case is also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracey Agnew and Cassye Cole of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the superseding indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

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