Violent Gang Leader Sentenced To Two Life Terms For Ordering Six Murders And An Attempted Murder As Part Of RICO Conspiracy
NEWARK, N.J. – The longtime leader of one of Newark’s largest and most violent street gangs was sentenced today to two concurrent terms of life in prison for his role in six murders, an attempted murder, drug trafficking, and firearms offenses as part of a racketeering conspiracy involving the New Jersey Grape Street Crips, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Corey Hamlet, a/k/a “C-Blaze,” a/k/a “Blaze,” a/k/a “Blizzie,” a/k/a “Castor Troy,” 41, of Belleville, New Jersey, the gang’s leader, was convicted in July 2018 following a two-month trial before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. Judge Arleo imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Hamlet was charged in November 2016 in a 22-count indictment charging 14 members and associates with, among other things, seven murders, numerous attempted murders, and numerous other violent and drug trafficking crimes committed as part of the racketeering conspiracy. Twelve of the 14 defendants charged in the indictment have now been convicted. The two remaining defendants, Hanee Cureton and Khalil Stafford, are pending trial.
An additional 68 members and associates of the Grape Street Crips who were arrested in a coordinated takedown in May 2015 were separately charged with drug-trafficking, physical assaults, and witness intimidation. Sixty-six individuals also have been convicted, and charges remain pending against two.
“Today’s sentencing marks the end of Corey Hamlet’s reign of terror on the streets of Newark,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “At this point, close to 70 members of the Newark set of the Grape Street Crips, a violent criminal organization that committed murders and other acts of violence in order to maintain control of a large portion of the illegal drug trade in Newark, have been removed from the streets. In the case of the gang’s leader, Hamlet, it’s for the rest of his life. Our office and our law enforcement partners will continue to go after dangerous criminals like this to protect the public.”
“Corey Hamlet, the leader of the Grape Street Crips, chose to order others to kill and now he can serve time for the gang,” Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said. “This conduct will not be tolerated and today’s sentence should send a message that the FBI, together with our law enforcement partners, will pursue and prosecute members of violent street gangs who seek to inflict violence and fear in our communities. The gang was responsible for four murders, an attempted murder, racketeering conspiracy and drug trafficking. The FBI and our partners will aggressively pursue gangs wherever they surface and are steadfast to making Newark and the surrounding communities, a safe place for our citizens.”
“The sentencing of Corey Hamlet closes the chapter on one of Newark’s most violent offenders,” Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division said. “The residents of Newark can be confident that the men and women of DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those who choose to violate the rule of law. Every citizen has the right to live without fear, and the conviction and sentencing of Corey Hamlet helps to make that possible.”
According to the documents filed in this case and other cases and the evidence presented at trial:
The Grape Street Crips engaged for years in numerous acts of murder, robbery, extortion, and drug trafficking throughout Newark. As the leader of the New Jersey set of the Grape Street Crips, Hamlet’s orders resulted in six murders committed by members of the gang.
The trial highlighted numerous violent acts committed by Grape Street Crips members as part of the racketeering conspiracy, some of which targeted members of rival gangs and others that targeted Grape Street Crips members whom Hamlet perceived to be a threat to his position as the leader of the gang:
• June 14, 2010: The murder of Leroy Simmons;
• Dec. 23, 2010: The murder of Rodney Kearney;
• Oct. 10, 2011: The attempted murders of eight individuals who were caught in the cross-fire when Hamlet’s second-in-command Kwasi Mack, a/k/a “Welchs,” and another Grape Street Crips member attempted to murder a gang member who they suspected had cooperated with law enforcement;
• May 3, 2013: The murder of Tariq Johnson;
• Oct. 27, 2013: The attempted murders of Almalik Anderson and Saidah Goines.
• Nov. 12, 2013: The murder of Anwar West;
• March 3, 2014: The murders of Wesley Child and Velma Cuttino—an innocent bystander—as well as the attempted murder of Maurice Green;
The trial revealed that Hamlet ordered many of the murders as revenge against Almalik Anderson, a rival with whom he had a long-running dispute. One of Hamlet’s fellow gang-members attempted to broker a truce with Anderson at the Short Hills Mall. After the meeting at Short Hills, Hamlet used his Instagram account to assert that Anderson had cooperated with law enforcement. On Hamlet’s orders, four gang members then hunted Anderson down and sprayed his car with bullets, nearly killing him and passenger Saidah Goines, a relative.
Within two weeks, Hamlet successfully ordered two other gang-members to murder Anwar West, the fellow gang-member who had attempted to broker peace between Hamlet and Anderson. On Hamlet’s orders, co-defendant Rashan Washington left West alone inside a Jeep Cherokee knowing that another gang member intended to walk up and shoot West in the head.
Hamlet then ordered the murder of Maurice Green, Anderson’s brother. On March 3, 2014, Manley and Hamlet, the long-time leader of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips, were riding in Manley’s Jeep Cherokee when they pulled alongside a car being driven by Green. Although Hamlet aimed a firearm at Green and the car’s other occupants, Green pulled off before any shots were fired. A short time later, Ahmad Manley found Green, and a car chase ensued. The chase concluded when Green’s car crashed into other vehicles at the intersection of Irvine Turner Boulevard and Spruce Street in Newark. Numerous shots fired from Manley’s Jeep Cherokee at Green’s vehicle struck Green and killed Wesley Childs, a passenger in Green’s car. In addition, Velma Cuttino – an innocent bystander who was a passenger in one of the vehicles that had crashed at the intersection – was shot through the head and killed.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Nickerson, with the investigation. He also thanked the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino, and the Essex County Sherriff’s Office, under the direction of Armando B. Fontura, for their long and close collaboration on the case
The government is represented by Osmar J. Benvenuto, Chief of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry A. Kamar of the Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard J. Ramsay of the Appeals 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: Anthony J. Iacullo, Clifton, New Jersey