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Press Release

Leader And Two Members Of Notorious Newark Heroin Distribution Ring Plead Guilty To Drug Conspiracy Charges

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

NEWARK, N.J. – Three Essex County, New Jersey, men today admitted their roles in a massive drug distribution ring responsible for dealing millions of dollars’ worth of heroin out of a residential building near a high school in Newark, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.  

Quawee Jones, a/k/a “Hatman,” 34, of Newark, Shaahid Cureton, a/k/a “Dills,” 33, of Newark, and Rashard Johnson, a/k/a “Drama,” 39 of East Orange, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to separate superseding informations charging them each with conspiracy to distribute heroin. 

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

The defendants operated a heroin distribution marketplace out of the first floor hallway of a residential building at 25 Johnson Ave in Newark. The building is just a few doors away from the Malcolm X. Shabazz High School and the Terrell James Park playground. The conspiracy was led by Quawee Jones and Almalik Anderson, who, along with other heroin dealers that worked with them – including Cureton and Johnson – took advantage of the building’s location on a dead-end street, making it difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate the distribution network despite a constant stream of buyers entering the building at all hours of the day. 

“Lookouts” were paid by the defendants to alert them to any police activity coming onto the block from the only access point on Clinton Avenue.  Police could not infiltrate the building without lookouts detecting their presence and signaling the sellers. Members of the drug trafficking organization also set up an escape route whereby residents were paid to keep their doors unlocked. The dealers in the hallways would run through the building and exit via fire escapes at the rear of the building or simply hide within the apartments before police could apprehend them. 

The drug conspiracy operated nearly 24 hours a day and was well-known among heroin users, who came from several different counties across New Jersey. The defendants allegedly worked in carefully planned “shifts” in order to handle the constant flow of heroin buyers. The heroin was sold in various “brands,” which were stamped onto the glassine envelopes that contained the heroin, allowing buyers to identify and purchase the brands that they preferred. 
The defendants sold on average one to two kilograms of heroin per week between January 2013 and November 2015. Based upon the quantities sold, information from court-authorized wiretaps, and other evidence, the profit from the heroin distribution at 25 Johnson Avenue was estimated to be between $4 million and $7 million a year. 

The drug conspiracy charge to which Jones pleaded guilty carries a statutory minimum prison term of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of life in prison. The drug conspiracy charges that Cureton and Johnson pleaded guilty to carry a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

With today’s pleas, all 16 defendants indicted for their roles in the heroin distribution conspiracy, including Anderson, have been convicted.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers assigned to the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. He also thanked officers of the Newark Department of Public Safety, under the direction of Director Anthony F. Ambrose, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office under the direction of Armando B. Fontoura; the N.J. State Parole Board, under the direction of Chairman James T. Plousi; and the Orange Police Department, under Director Todd Warren, for their work on the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan M. Peck and David E. Malagold, and Senior Litigation Counsel Robert Frazer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.  

Defense counsel: 

Jones: Stacy Ann Biancamano Esq., Cranford
Cureton: Ruth M. Liebesman Esq., Paramus
Johnson: Henry Klingeman Esq., and Kristen Santillo Esq., Newark

Updated January 5, 2018

Press Release Number: 18-007