NEWARK, NJ - Three city recreation department employees are among 12 people facing federal narcotics charges as part of an alleged drug trafficking ring that used a Newark recreation center to deliver and store their drugs.
Federal prosecutors say Edward Williams, 51, Rahim Jackson, 43, and Arthur Hardy, 41, conspired to distribute at least a kilogram or more of heroin out of the Rotunda Recreation and Wellness Center on Clifton Avenue. Williams was allegedly a member of the G-Shine set of the Bloods, according to the criminal complaint.
“That somebody would use the cover of their job to do this, is a whole other level of disgust,” Mayor Ras Baraka said today during a press conference at city hall.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration used wire-taps in the investigation, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said. Authorities claim Williams worked with Wali Duncan, a high-ranking member of G-Shine, to get narcotics from the two other recreation department employees.
Authorities said large deliveries of heroin, fentanyl and crack took place in around the Clifton Avenue recreation center on numerous occasions. The recreation center was also used to stash drugs and money, authorities alleged.
“While neighborhood children were coming here to play basketball and chess, they may have been just a few feet away from narcotics and the criminals who sell them," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement.
The G-Shine gang operates at the Janice Cromer Village -- also known as the Broadway Townhomes -- public housing complex, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. Duncan allegedly supplied narcotics to numerous individuals who would sell them in the neighborhood, the complaint said.
Tieshorn Fletcher, Kareem Collier, Fuquan Bunn, Shyiem Gordon, Michael Graham, Terrell Evans, Arraheem Washington, Wilfredo P. Jimenez also face drug charges in the alleged drug trafficking organization.
All three employees will be removed from city employment, the mayor said. Baraka added that the three recreation department employees allegedly involved were part-timers.
Baraka explained that criminal background checks are not required of part-time city employees. However, the mayor vowed that all part-time employees would now be required to submit to background checks.
The three were not part of the city’s re-entry program, which seeks to rehabilitate people mostly in Newark’s sanitation and water departments once they’ve left jail. Baraka said these charges would not impact that program either.
“In the city, we believe people are going to be rehabilitated,” the mayor said after a reporter used the word “gangbanger” in a question. “I'm not of the mindset that gangbanger is something you're born with and you have that for the rest of your life -- this moniker -- ‘gangbanger.’ That's why people as ‘gangbangers’...I classify them as human beings.
“What they've done in the past, prayerfully, we give them an opportunity and they change.”
The mayor said he was also outraged over the district attorney’s press release, which incorrectly identified Hardy as the full-time director of the recreation center. That information, Baraka said, was taken from incorrect information on the city’s website.
Patrick Council is the director of the entire department and each recreation center is assigned a director underneath him.
Baraka’s brother -- Obalaji J. Baraka -- is also listed on the city's website as the manager of the division of recreation. But the mayor shut down questions that connected his brother to the charges or the information on the city's site.
“My brother used to tell me: No investigation, no right to speak,” Baraka said. “My brother is in charge of [John F. Kennedy Recreation Center], but the director is Patrick Council.”