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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Crack-Cocaine Supplier And Dealer For New Jersey Grape Street Crips Gang Plead Guilty To Drug Trafficking Charges

NEWARK, N.J. – Two Newark, New Jersey, men admitted their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy controlled by the New Jersey set of the Grape Street Crips, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.

Leonardo Arroyo, a/k/a “Leo,” 32, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack-cocaine. Rakeem Hankerson, a/k/a “Rocco,” 25, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to distribute 28 grams or more of crack-cocaine.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

The New Jersey Grape Street Crips gang controlled drug trafficking and other criminal activities in various areas of Newark, including the neighborhood of 6th Avenue and North 5th Street.  Arroyo supplied both cocaine and crack-cocaine to gang members who used and shared a dedicated cell phone to accept orders for, and distribute, thousands of clips of crack-cocaine to other crack-cocaine distributors.  These gang-members included Hakeem Vanderhall, a/k/a “Keem,” a/k/a “Sugar Bear,” Eric Concepcion, a/k/a “Eddie Arroyo,” a/k/a “E-Wax,” a/k/a “Wax,” Tyquan Clark a/k/a “Tah,” Christopher Coelho, a/k/a “Brazil,” and Rashan Washington, a/k/a “Shoota.”

Hankerson was a member of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips who purchased distribution quantities of crack-cocaine from more senior gang members and sold it to retail level customers on the street.

To protect their gang and drug territory, the New Jersey Grape Street Crips operating in the 6th Avenue and North 5th Street location used “community guns” that were easily accessible to gang members. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents seized numerous firearms, including a .410 caliber assault rifle, a.45 caliber Thompson semi-automatic carbine, a 7.62 caliber assault rifle, and numerous semi-automatic handguns.

The charge to which Arroyo pleaded guilty carries a minimum of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a $10 million fine. The charge to which Hankerson pleaded guilty carries a minimum of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. Sentencing for Arroyo and Hankerson are set for July 26, 2016 and July 25, 2016, respectively.

Clark, Hamilton, Coelho, and numerous other gang members and associates have pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracy and await sentencing. Charges against Vanderhall, Concepcion, and Washington remain pending. The charges and allegations against them are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, for the investigation leading to the guilty pleas. U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked prosecutors and detectives of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray, police officers and detectives of the Department of Public Safety and Newark Police Division, under the direction of Director Anthony A. Ambrose, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Armando B. Fontoura, for their work on the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Osmar J. Benvenuto and Barry A. Kamar of the OCDETF/Narcotics Unit of the Criminal Division in Newark.

This case was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

Defense counsel:

Arroyo:  Susan Cassell, Ridgewood, New Jersey

Hankerson:  John P. Holliday, Trenton, New Jersey

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
Updated June 14, 2016