First of Two Essex County Female Gang Leaders Pleads Guilty; "Operation Bloodette" Results in 43 Arrests, Significant Amounts of Illegal Drugs, Weapons and Cash Seized

Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow today announced that the first of two female gang leaders of a comprehensive drug ring and her boyfriend pleaded guilty today to distributing drugs and doing so in front of her two children. The plea stems from the arrest of 43 gang members and their associates, in connection with the dismantling of a female gang-led narcotics ring operating in Newark, East Orange, Orange, Montclair and Union, last summer.

Initiated in January 2009, the long-term joint investigation dubbed "Operation Bloodette" traced an elaborate PCP, cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana distribution ring that sold significant quantities of drugs to gang members and their associates of the 464 PIRU and Sex Money Murder sets of the Bloods. Undercover detectives from the Essex County Prosecutor's Gang and Narcotics VIPER Unit, East Orange, Newark, Montclair and Orange police departments, along with The Essex County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recovered more than $133,000 worth of narcotics including: 62 ounces of PCP, 266 decks of heroin = 13.3 grams, 54 grams of cocaine, and 36 grams of marijuana. In addition, four fully-loaded handguns, 138 rounds of ammunition, and more than $21,000 in cash were seized. Detectives estimate the operation was distributing more than $50,000 worth of narcotics per week or more than $2.6 million per year.

According to Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Lynne Borasio, who prosecuted the case, Tyesha Stephens, 30, and Anthony Griffin, 23, both of Newark, pleaded guilty to first-degree possession with intent to distribute PCP and two-counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. As part of the plea agreement Stephens and Griffin will be required to serve 10 years each in State Prison. Essex County Superior Court Judge Michael Petrolle revoked their bails and ordered them to forfeit more than $15,500 in cash from drug proceeds. Petrolle scheduled sentencing for February 16.

According to Essex County Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly, Tyesha Stephens and Iyesha Harrison, 25, of East Orange, the alleged ring leaders, were orchestrating the operation primarily from the South Orange Ave. corridor bordering East Orange and Newark and Stephens' 440 Elizabeth Ave. apartment in Newark - the scene of a recent shooting where an innocent bystander was killed and four others were left wounded. Harrison, a recent shooting victim herself, was arrested on July 13 and charged with leader of a narcotics trafficking network, distribution of CDS, distribution of CDS within 1,000 ft of a school, conspiracy to distribute CDS, and employing a juvenile to distribute CDS. Stephens was arrested on June 15 and charge with possession of CDS (approximately 60 ounces of PCP), possession of CDS with intent to distribute, possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 1,000 ft of a school, possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 ft. of public housing, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Harrison is being held in the Essex County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail. Her case is pending a grand jury presentation.

Of the 43 arrests, 31 were determined to be gang members and/or associates and 26 had violent criminal histories, and 12 are juveniles.

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