New Jersey Busts Pull Guns, Drugs Off Streets
OCT 11 -- Acting Camden County Prosecutor Joshua M. Ottenberg, Camden Police Executive Arturo Venegas Jr., State Police Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes, U.S. Marshal James Plousis, DEA Special Agent in Charge for the New Jersey Division Gerard P. McAleer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia office J.P. Weis reported Tuesday the results of a summer initiative designed to target street-level drug dealing in the city of Camden.
Citizen complaints spurred the initiative. It aimed to hinder illegal narcotics activity on the corners in Camden and, concurrently, get off the streets firearms that might eventually be used in homicides. Street-level drug activity tends to increase in the summer, and investigators hoped to take advantage of that traffic to arrest and charge the city’s dealers before the start of the school year.
“This summer specifically, for whatever reason, there was a lot of conflict and we needed to address it and we did, successfully,” Lt. Mark Nicholas, commander of the Joint Camden Task Force, said.
The unit is part of the Philadelphia/Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, an interagency initiative that combats the drug trade in the region.
The summer surge began in June and continued to the end of September. Officers made 401 Arrests, confiscated $81,200 in Crack Cocaine, $356,170 in Powder Cocaine, $18,660 in Heroin, five Guns and almost $69,000 in Cash.
Investigators used a variety of methods during the summer surge. They worked undercover, used informants, conducted surveillance of drug activity, posed as dealers and posed as buyers. Charges ranged from disorderly persons for customers to first degree drug charges.
Among the most significant incidents:
*The arrests of Jimmy Cintron-Guzman, 22, of Camden, and Julio Rodriguez, 26, of Merchantville, at 24th and River Road in Camden on June 19. The arrests also led to the discovery of a kilogram of cocaine. Both men were charged with drug distribution within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
* The arrests of George Nieves, 27 and Jessica Nieves, 27, both of Pennsauken, and Javier Roman, 36, of Camden, on Aug. 30 at 3401 Westfield Avenue in Camden. Their busts came with the discovery of a stash house in Camden and the confiscation of three kilograms of powder cocaine worth about $240,000. Investigators also found another $6,910 in cocaine, two handguns and $13,240 in cash. Roman is believed to be a significant player in the street gang the Almighty Latin Kings. Roman is charged with supplying drugs to alleged dealer George Nieves, who is also believed to be a member of the Latin Kings. All are charged with first degree distribution charges and weapons offenses.
* Just prior to the start of the summer surge, investigators arrested Vincent Lamkin, 25, of Los Angeles, Jennavese Rosario, 18, of Camden, and Jasmine Vadell, 27, of Lancaster, Pa., at 62 Ablett Village in Camden, all charged with participating in a PCP pipeline that ran from the West Coast to the Philadelphia/Camden area. Forty-eight ounces of PCP worth about $480,000 were confiscated during the May 25 arrest. Lamkin is believed to be a major player with the Crips street gang on the West Coast. The three suspects were charged with drug possession with intent to distribute.
“There’s a definite decrease in shootings because of this activity and significant related arrests,” Nicholas said.
As HIDTA worked the corners U.S. Marshals pursued fugitives throughout the region, leading to 123 captures from June to August. That included seven wanted for Homicides and six wanted for Sex Offenses. Those captured included:
* Stedman Brown, 18, captured June 22 in Merchantville and charged with murdering Quandel Drayton in Camden June 18, 2007.
* Lester Goffney, 20, captured June 21 in Browns Mills and also charged with murdering Quandel Drayton.
* Joseph Amoop, 26, captured July 17 in Philadelphia and charged with murdering Shirrel Harris in Camden Nov. 6, 2006.
Law enforcement agencies policing the city’s drug trade must find a balance between investigating high-level leaders of regional drug trafficking organizations and maintaining order on the streets, where low-level corner dealing brings crime and violence to neighborhoods. The summer initiative served as a counterweight to a recent focus on dismantling large-scale illegal narcotics operations.
All persons charged with criminal offenses are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.