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Essex County Man Admits Distributing Crack and Heroin in Stephen Crane Village

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man today admitted distributing and possessing with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Raquan Rawls, aka “Bandz,” 24, of Newark, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez by videoconference to two counts in a superseding indictment charging him with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, (Count Eight), and distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin (Count Nine).  

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

Stephen Crane Village is a public housing complex in Newark, on the border with Belleville. From at least February 2019 through February 2020, law enforcement officers investigated individuals that controlled an open-air drug market that operated within Stephen Crane Village. On Nov. 21, 2019, Rawls and others sold heroin and cocaine base to an individual while under surveillance by law enforcement. On Dec. 13, 2019, Rawls sold heroin to an individual while under surveillance by law enforcement.


The drug charges to which Rawls pleaded guilty both carry a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2023.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents and task force officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey L. Matthews; the Belleville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Minichini; special agents and task force officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark; the Newark Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director Fritz G. Fragé; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of 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 plea. He 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.

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This investigation was part of the Newark Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), where the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with state, federal, county, and local law enforcement to investigate crime in Newark and the surrounding cities. This case is 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. Attorney Tracey Agnew of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton.