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Feds: Undercover Buys, Wire Snare Members Of Crew That Slung Smack, Crack In Newark Projects

Pilgrim Baptist Village
Pilgrim Baptist Village Photo Credit:

Federal agents arrested three accused members of a crew that the government said has controlled the heroin and crack market in a labyrinthine complex of affordable housing and senior apartments in Newark.

ATF agents working with U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito’s office and other local, state and federal law enforcers zeroed in on the privately-owned Pilgrim Baptist Village housing complex.

Commonly known as “Pilgrim Village,” the project consists of 46 buildings, each with four units, with interior stairwells leading from each apartment to a common hallway that connects multiple buildings, as well as semi-subterranean garages clustered around internal courtyards and pedestrian walkways.

The layout makes it difficult for investigators to keep a close eye on anyone without being detected in what’s basically become an open-air drug market for heroin often laced with fentanyl and cocaine base (crack), Carpenito said.

Investigators have worked the better part of the past 18 months to infiltrate the organization -- making undercover buys, capturing phone calls and text messages and more, the U.S. attorney said.

On Thursday he announced the arrests of three city men charged federally with conspiring to distribute crack:

  • Sherrod “Drama” Richardson, 19;
  • Yusef “Tweeze” Ellis, 39;
  • Reuben “Ahmeer” Howard, 38.

Richardson is also charged with possession of heroin and crack with the intent to distribute both, he said.

Richardson and Ellis were arrested Thursday and Howard on Wednesday, Carpenito said.

He credited special agents and task force officers of ATF, and members of the Newark Department of Public Safety with the investigation leading to the charges.

Carpenito thanked the DEA, the FBI, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as police from Belleville, Nutley, Bloomfield, Verona and Orange police departments.

The investigation is part of the Newark Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), through which the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with state, federal, county, and local law enforcement to investigate violent crime in Newark and surrounding cities, Carpenito said.

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