NEWARK, NJ — Federal law enforcement officials have announced charges against 22 people based in and around Paterson who are believed to be involved in the distribution of drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base.

In separate statements, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig described that 12 of the suspects are members and associates of “Harlem World/12th Avenue” while the other 10 are members of “UpTop,” both Paterson based street gangs named for the areas where they are believed to operate. 

“Today's takedown of gang members is a major victory for the residents of Paterson,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “Public safety has been a critical component of the foundation of my administration's agenda and today's charges speak to the need for aggressive measures against those who strike fear in our residents and violate our quality of life.

Sign Up for Wayne Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“I'd like to offer my gratitude to the U.S Attorney's Office, ATF and the other agencies that were involved in this operation,” added Sayegh. “I look forward to hosting a press conference, tomorrow, to divulge what this means for Paterson.”

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the members and associates of Harlem World/12th Avenue street gang operated primarily around 12th Avenue and East 23rd Street in Paterson. Through numerous controlled purchases of drugs, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical surveillance, and the analysis of telephone records, the investigation uncovered evidence that from February 2020 through April 26, 2021, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base.

The investigation further showed that individuals are eligible to join Harlem World/ 12th Avenue if they reside within the gang's turf and are willing to participate in street level narcotics sales. This included distributing decks of heroin that are almost always stamped or labeled with various “brand names” such as “Coca Cola,” “Larry Bird,” “Kobe Bryant,” “Paid in Full,” “Best Buy,” and “K.O.” These packets come in colored ink to allow dealers and purchasers to differentiate and market batches of heroin.

Since October 2020 these drugs have been linked to over 10 fatal overdoses.

A simultaneous investigation revealed that members of the UpTop street gang, which operates primarily in the Fourth Ward of Paterson, conducted similar drug sales from January 2020 through this past Thursday. Members of UpTop sell heroin that is frequently mixed with fentanyl, a potent, synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin, the statement said. 

While members and associates of UpTop sometimes compete with each other for narcotics customers within the gang's turf, the investigation is said to have shown that they work together to ensure that outsiders are unable to distribute narcotics within the turf. 

“Members and associates of UpTop work together to preserve and protect the power, territory, and reputation of the gang, and to hinder, obstruct, and prevent law enforcement officers from identifying their criminal activities, from apprehending offenders of the crimes, and from successfully prosecuting and punishing the offenders.”

The suspects named in Honig's statement are: Michael Booker, 38; Kenron Boyd, 28; Ronald Hammond, 53; Damir Horne-Casper, 28; Marcell Jackson, 26; Roger Jacobs, 25; Damond King, 31; Naquis Martin, 24; Korri Muckle, 40; Troy Taylor, 35; and Shamir Thompson, 26, all of Paterson; and Tahj Smith, 20, of Haledon, are all associated with “Harlem World/12th Avenue” and are each charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine base.

King, who is already in custody on state charges, is additionally charged by complaint with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Booker, Jackson, and Taylor are still at large. The remaining eight defendants were arrested Thursday.

Also arrested and charged on Thursday were Corey Boyd, 23; Leo Edwards, 27; Sean Morgan, 21; and Brent Staton, 20; and Kassan Drakeford, 31; all of Paterson; and Stefan Cameron, 25, Hackensack, of the “Up Top” gang. Kwame Ellis, 30, was also charged but remains at large.

Also charged in the same complaint, and already in state custody on other charges, are Devin Kyle, 21; Edwin Diaz, 19; and Anthony Herring, 38, all of Paterson. 

Each suspect faces up to 40 years in prison. They are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.