Law enforcement officials dismantle drug gang in Chester
CHESTER — Members of a violent drug gang that allegedly distributed more than 5 kilos of cocaine in and around the city since 2003 were rounded up in a massive dragnet Thursday, authorities said.
The cocaine and drug-trafficking organization, dubbed “The Cut-Off,” operated out of Highland Gardens, using guns, threats and physical violence to distribute cocaine, crack, heroin and marijuana to customers from the Tri-State area, according to the 60-count superceding federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
“Another violent drug gang has been dismantled,” said U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid, at an afternoon press conference at Chester Police Headquarters. “It may not be our final victory in Highland Gardens, but if necessary, we’ll be back.”
Beginning at 5 a.m., agents from the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, city and state police and county detectives fanned out across the city and rounded up 14 alleged gang members. The gang’s alleged ringleader, Eddie Lee Walker, 31, and six others were already in custody.
“We’ve seen this before — a violent drug gang moving cocaine in and around the city of Chester,” Magid said.
Magid was referring to the once-feared “Boyle Street Boys” drug gang, members of which used guns, threats and sometimes murder to further their illegal drug operations. The three ringleaders of the Boyle Street Boys were each sentenced to three consecutive life terms without the possibility of release. Other members of the notorious gang received lengthy prison sentences.
“Back in 2001, federal and local law enforcement combined their efforts and resources and successfully prosecuted the violent Boyle Street Boys drug distribution gang, which was operating in the Highland Gardens neighborhood,” Magid said. “This same cooperative effort among law enforcement was used to bring an end to The Cut-Off.”
Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green recognized several individuals who were key to the investigation: Chester Sgt. John Gretsky, Pennsylvania State Trooper John Cargan, DEA Special Agent Randy Updergraff and FBI Agent Ray Carr.
Authorities allege that beginning in 2003, The Cut-Off members ran their drug trade in Highland Gardens, adjacent to the Highland Gardens’ exit of Interstate 95. Some areas that were favorite haunts of the gang included the playground on Culhane Street, the 2700 block of Swartz Street, the 2700 block of Nolan Street and the 1300 block of Perkins Street.
Armed gang members used violence and threats to control drug sales in their territory and eliminate competition, the indictment alleges.
Only members of the gang, those born, raised or living in Highland Gardens, and those with the expressed permission of a gang member, were permitted to sell in The Cut-Off, the indictment alleges.
While apparently not rising to the level of the ruthless Boyle Street Boys — responsible for the murder of five people, including Chester Police Cpl. Michael Beverly — members of The Cut-Off had a reputation for violent behavior, according to the indictment. Customers of the gang sometimes referred to the maze of small streets that make up The Cut-Off’s territory as the “Circle of Death,” Magid said.
The drug gang also used threats and violence to discipline and maintain control over its members and to keep members and others from cooperating with law enforcement authorities, the indictment alleges.
At least two of the gang’s members, Shataan “Jingles” Adams and Jamal B. Harris-Muhammad, are currently in prison on murder charges. Adams, 26, was convicted of second-degree murder earlier this month for the September 2007 shooting death of a city man in Highland Gardens. Harris-Muhammad, 24, pleaded guilty to a 2006 murder.
Established members of The Cut-Off, the “Oldheads,” and younger members known as “youngbulls,” used neighborhood children to stash and retrieve their drugs, the indictment alleges. They allegedly stashed their drugs in various locations in Highland Gardens, including abandoned houses, trash cans and even potato chip bags.
Gang members also stored weapons, including submachine guns, digital scales, packaging material and other drug paraphernalia, in abandoned houses in the neighborhood, the indictment alleges.
“Today, a drug gang that controlled areas of Chester and terrorized the neighborhood through violence and intimidation has been brought to justice through the cooperative efforts of all the agencies involved, who work hard each and every day to make this community and the United States a safe place to live,” said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge John J. Bryfonski.
Joining Magid, Bryfonski and Green at the press conference were Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Anthony Sivo, Chester Mayor Wendell Butler, Chester Police Chief Floyd Lewis and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.
“These types of joint task force investigations are intended to not only rid our communities of those criminal predators that destroy the very fabric of safety and security that all law-abiding citizens expect and deserve,” said Fedarcyk, “but are also intended to send the clear message that federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies are working closely together to aggressively address the violent gang problems that communities like Chester have faced.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Faith Taylor and Ashley K. Lunkenheimer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Halligan and Sharon H. McKenna.
The following defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug house, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a playground.
Some of the defendants are also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted of all charges, the 21 members of The Cut-Off face a mandatory-minimum prison term of 10 years with a possible maximum life sentence.
They are: Eddie Lee Walker, Najee Harper, Reginald Freeman, Earl Fulton, Ronier Kennedy, James Jones, Corey Husbands, Ronnelle McMillian, Shataan Adams, Alaadin Crews, Craig Evans, Javille Gordon, Gary Harris, Jamal Harris-Muhammad, Brent Hull, Clyde Hull, Thomas Jones, Mathis McMickle, Andre Mosley, Kareem Shaheer and Brandon Townes.
Law enforcement officials dismantle drug gang in Chester - The Delaware County Daily Times : Serving Delaware County, PA(DelcoTimes.com)
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