NEWARK, NJ — Eleven people using Stephen Crane Village Housing Complex for a drug trafficking organization were charged on Tuesday for their roles in the distribution of multiple narcotics, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

An investigation led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office with local law enforcement partners and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration resulted in the drug-related charges, as well as one murder charge for a defendant said to have killed a conspirator in a Crane Village apartment. 

“The criminal complaint against these defendants details a brazen drug dealing operation going on right out in the open that used violence to accomplish its goals,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement. “Thanks to the combined work of our federal, state, and local partners, we have been able to address a substantial threat to the public.”

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The charges for the defendants, all Newark residents, stem from activity stretching from February 2019 to February 2020 involving the distribution of heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine in and around Crane Village. Seven defendants were arrested on Tuesday while two were already in state custody and two others remain at large. 

Due to the layout and location of Crane Village, which borders on Belleville, the public housing complex is the site of an open-air drug market. Police investigated the organization in control of the drug market through surveillance, phone records, controlled purchases of narcotics and recorded calls and text messages. 

“Tonight, residents of the Stephen Crane Village Apartments, and the cities of Newark and Belleville, can rest a little easier,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson said in the release. “Through the relentless efforts of our ATF Newark personnel, along with the unmatched dedication of our partner agencies, we have collectively removed the worst of the worst from our community. “

If found guilty, the defendants face up to 40 years in prison and a fine of at least $5 million for conspiracy to distribute at least 28 grams of cocaine base and a quantity of heroin and fentanyl. The count of distribution of a quantity of heroin and cocaine base could mean a maximum 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Murder during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime is eligible for the death penalty or a maximum of life in prison.