TRENTON, NJ — A coordinated takedown by federal, state and local law enforcement has resulted in the arrest of 19 people, including 17 Monmouth County residents, in connection with a cocaine and crack cocaine trafficking ring in the county, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office.

A total of 20 people were charged yesterday, August 22, with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine or 280 grams or more of crack cocaine. All but one person, who remains at large, are scheduled today to make their first court appearances in federal court.

Those arrested were Damion Helmes, 39, Skylar Rogers, 35, and Malcolm Gatson, 43, all of the Cliffwood Beach section of Aberdeen; Derrick Hayes, 37, and Terry Haupt, 35, both of Neptune;  Dequan Copeland, 40, of Red Bank; Dawn Stephens, 38, and Eric Yarbrough, 28, both of Keansburg;  Shantay Walker, 42, of Howell; Shamar Dudley, 42, and Amad Jones, 37, both of Long Branch; Cassius Williams, 26, Curtis Johnson, 36, and Ralph Lee, 40, all of Keyport; Tonya Underwood, 46, and Michelle Torrez, 44, both of Matawan; Jermaine Hicks, 39, of Wall; Elizabeth Conover, 28, of the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge; and Rondell Hill, 35, of Lakewood. Keith Logan, 38, of Long Branch remains at large.

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Each defendant could face up to 40 years or life in prison, if convicted.

“As alleged in complaint, the defendants in this organization distributed significant amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine throughout Monmouth County and surrounding municipalities,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “By coordinating closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we continue to work hard to substantially reduce on the drug trade in in our communities in these areas, and across the state.”

“Today's operation is another example of the FBI's dedication to keeping the public safe,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Gregory W. Ehrie, based in Newark. “We know it is a way of life for drug dealers to pollute their neighborhoods with toxic substances so they can profit. It is the FBI's way of life to use dogged determination to find those who are doing the most damage, get them off the streets, and help our local and federal prosecutors put them out of business so the neighborhoods might recover. Our job is made easier when community members take a stand and report any illegal activity they witness.”

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

Between April 2019 and August 2019, the defendants and others engaged in a narcotics conspiracy that operated to profit from the distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine primarily in municipalities throughout Monmouth County — including Cliffwood, Keansburg, Matawan, Keyport, Red Bank, Long Branch, Neptune and Asbury Park — as well as Brick in Ocean County.

Through the interception of telephone calls and text messages pursuant to court-authorized wiretap orders and other investigative techniques, law enforcement officials learned that defendant Helmes obtained regular supplies of cocaine from Hayes and Copeland. Helmes then distributed that cocaine, portions of which he converted into crack cocaine, for profit to other distributors, subdealers, and end users throughout Monmouth County.

During the wiretap portion of the investigation, law enforcement intercepted numerous communications by and between the conspirators regarding such issues as cocaine quality and availability, pricing, packaging, quantity, and customer satisfaction.

Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Division’s Jersey Shore Gang and Criminal Organization Task Force, Red Bank Resident Agency, which includes representatives from the Bradley Beach, Brick, Howell, Toms River, Union Beach and Marlboro police departments and the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office), as well as the Red Bank, Keansburg, Middletown, Highlands, Holmdel and Long Branch police departments and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Carpenito also thanked the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Monmouth County Police Academy and Monmouth County Correctional Institution for their assistance.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian D. Brater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

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

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