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Justice News

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Three People Charged with Drug Trafficking in Newark’s Pilgrim Baptist Village Housing Complex

NEWARK, N.J. – Three people have been charged in connection with their roles in the distribution of heroin – some of which contained fentanyl – and cocaine base (crack) in an affordable housing complex and a nearby senior living community in Newark, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Charged by complaint with one count each of conspiring to distribute cocaine base are: Sherrod Richardson, a/k/a “Drama,” 19; Yusef Ellis, a/k/a “Tweeze,” 39; and Reuben Howard, a/k/a “Ahmeer,” 38, all of Newark. Richardson is also charged with possession of heroin and cocaine base on Dec. 5, 2019, with intent to distribute. Richardson and Ellis were arrested today; Howard was arrested April 8, 2020. All three defendants appeared today by telephone conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III.

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

The charges and arrests resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. Pilgrim Baptist Village Housing Complex, Site II (Pilgrim Village), is a privately owned, affordable housing complex in the vicinity of Avon and Jelliff avenues in Newark. It consists of 46 buildings, each with four units, which are accessible via exterior entrances as well as an interior stairwell leading from each apartment to a common hallway that connects multiple buildings and semi-subterranean garages for those buildings. The buildings are clustered around internal courtyards and pedestrian walkways, and the complex is accessible on foot from Avon Avenue or Jelliff Avenue and by car from one of four driveways leading to the semi-subterranean garages. Because its location and layout make it difficult for law enforcement to surveil, Pilgrim Village is the site of an open-air illegal market. Since at least November 2018, law enforcement has been investigating the organization that controls this market. 

Through numerous controlled purchases of narcotics, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical and electronic surveillance, and analysis of telephone call detail records, law enforcement officials determined that the defendants distributed or conspired to distribute cocaine base in an around Pilgrim Village from at least June 2019 through April 2020.

The counts of conspiracy to distribute at least 28 grams of cocaine base each carry a minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a fine of at least $5 million. The counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. 

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers of ATF, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson in Newark; and members of the Newark Department of Public Safety, under the direction of Director Anthony F. Ambrose, with the investigation leading to the charges.

He also thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II; the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura; and the U.S. Marshals Service, under the direction of Marshal Juan Mattos Jr. He also thanked the Belleville Police Department; the Nutley Police Department; the Bloomfield Police Department; the Verona Police Department; and the Orange Police Department for their assistance with this case.

The investigation is part of the Newark Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), through which the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with state, federal, county, and local law enforcement to investigate violent crime in Newark and surrounding cities.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
Updated April 9, 2020