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Press Release

Waterbury Gang Member Sentenced to More Than 5 Years in Federal Prison for Firearm and Drug Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut

Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that RALPH ERNEST, 19, of Waterbury, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 66 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for drug and firearm offenses.

According to court documents and statements made in court, this matter stems from an ongoing investigation into gangs, drug trafficking and the illegal possession of firearms in Waterbury.  On January 18, 2021, Ernest, a member of the Paybacc Crypts gang, stole a car belonging to an off-duty Connecticut State Police trooper.  The car contained three shotguns and FBI credentials.  Ernest was arrested the next day after officers located him in the stolen car and recovered a 9mm handgun with an extended magazine loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition, as well as quantities of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.  Two of the stolen shotguns were recovered soon after Ernest’s arrest from one of his gang associates.  The third stolen shotgun and the FBI credentials have not been located.

Ernest has been detained since his arrest on January 19, 2021.  On April 7, 2022, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. 

This investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Connecticut State Police; the Waterbury Police Department; the Wolcott Police Department, and the Connecticut Department of Correction.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Natasha M. Freismuth and John T. Pierpont, Jr.

U.S. Attorney Avery thanked the State’s Attorney’s Office for the Judicial District of Waterbury for its close cooperation in investigating and prosecuting this matter.

The prosecution is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In May 2021, the Justice Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated August 12, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses