Philadelphia Rappers and Associates of “Original Block Hustlaz” Gang Convicted for Large-Scale Drug Trafficking
During the trial, an associate of the group was also arrested on charges of witness intimidation
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that defendants Abdul Ibrahim West, a/k/a “AR-Ab,” 37, of Brookhaven, Jamaal Blanding, a/k/a “Bionickhaz,” 38, of Philadelphia, Jameel Hickson, a/k/a “Meliano,” 41, of Philadelphia, and Hans Gadson, a/k/a “NoBrakes Bras,” 34, of Philadelphia, were convicted today at trial for conspiracy to distribute drugs and other drug trafficking crimes.
Separately but in a related case, Charles Salley, a/k/a “Dark Lo,” a/k/a “Ron Harvey,” 37, of Clayton, Delaware, was arrested last week and charged by complaint with witness tampering during the trial.
Conviction at Trial
The evidence at trial showed that defendants West, Blanding, Hickson and Gadson ran a violent drug trafficking organization from at least March 2017 until June 2018. Although they purported to be rap music artists and associates of a local music label and group known as the “Original Block Hustlaz,” or “O.B.H.”, these defendants made money distributing cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin in and around Philadelphia. The organization was led by West, who purchased bulk drugs, distributed the drugs, and ordered acts of murder and violence in furtherance of the organization’s drug trafficking. Additionally, Blanding and Hickson imported drugs from California, while Gadson and Blanding distributed the drugs throughout Philadelphia.
Throughout the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents conducted surveillance and undercover sting operations during which drugs were purchased from the defendants. The defendants maintained four separate properties in connection with their drug trafficking organization. In May 2018, agents executed a search warrant on one of the properties and seized ten kilograms of cocaine and five pounds of methamphetamine.
Each of the defendants now faces a maximum of life in prison under federal law.
New Charge of Witness Tampering
The complaint against defendant Salley alleges that on November 6, 2019, a cooperating witness in the above-referenced trial received a threatening letter from Salley under the pen name “Ron Harvey,” a pseudonym Salley has used in various rap songs. The complaint further alleges that Salley, who also goes by the stage name “Dark Lo,” threatened physical violence against the cooperating witness and others if the witness testified at trial against Salley’s O.B.H. associates.
On November 13, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski detained Salley pending trial in this matter.
If convicted, Salley faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
“West and his co-defendants, members of the O.B.H. drug organization, pumped huge quantities of deadly drugs into our community while pretending to be legitimate artists and businessmen,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Drug trafficking is an inherently dangerous business, and drug traffickers ultimately deliver violence and destruction to our communities without any regard for the people living there. Our Office is determined to do exactly what we did in this case: investigate and convict these dangerous criminals and put them in prison.”
“Furthermore, witness intimidation has no place in the criminal justice system and will be dealt with swiftly and harshly,” continued U.S. Attorney McSwain. “As alleged in a criminal complaint, an associate of O.B.H. attempted to intimidate a witness during the trial and is now behind bars, where he will remain pending trial.”
“West and his crew transported illegal narcotics across the country to push here on our streets,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “They used violence to maintain their hold on their drug territory, in order to keep the cash rolling in. The FBI and our partners on the Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force are determined to dismantle dangerous trafficking operations like this and bring those involved to justice, as we push every day to make this city safer.”
The “O.B.H.” case is part of the FBI’s Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force, a program through which all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies collaboratively address the violent crime plaguing communities. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Everett Witherell and Timothy Stengel.
The Salley case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Ashenfelter. An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.