Seventy-one people have been charged in connection with a long-running, coordinated federal, state and local investigation into the New Jersey set of the Grape Street Crips, a street gang allegedly responsible for violence and wide-spread drug trafficking in the northern New Jersey, announced U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey.
Today’s charges and arrests culminate three waves of arrests that started May 6, 2015, and resulted in 14 federal complaints charging 50 members and associates of the Grape Street Crips in that two-week span. These 50 defendants and their associates, along with another 21 defendants arrested previously and facing federal and state charges, actively controlled drug trafficking and other illegal activities in various neighborhoods and public-housing complexes in Newark, New Jersey.
The charges are the result of a long-running investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI, in conjunction with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Newark Police Department and Essex County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Narcotics. The defendants arrested today are scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judges Steven C. Mannion, Mark Falk and James B. Clark III in federal court in Newark.
“As this investigation demonstrates, the New Jersey Grape Street Crips are allegedly one of the largest and most dangerous street gangs in Newark as well as a prolific narcotics trafficking organization that floods the streets New Jersey with heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “The narcotics activities that the gang and its associates allegedly engage in directly affect the quality of life of law-abiding citizens who reside in cities and suburbs of northern New Jersey.”
“This criminal gang used violence and intimidation to maintain their drug enterprise in Newark,” said Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski of the DEA’s New Jersey Division. “The residents of Newark can be assured that the DEA will continue to pursue those people and organizations that cause them to live in fear.”
“Gangs are the mechanism by which drugs are transmitted to the ‘bad seeds’ in our cities, and are at the root of the violent crime problem,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bradley W. Cohen of the FBI’s Newark Division. “The FBI Newark Field Office is committed to making Newark and its surrounding communities, a safe place to be. The most effective way to combat this epidemic of violence is through cooperation; the efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the citizens to whom we protect and serve.”
In addition to controlling drug trafficking across large swaths of Newark, the Grape Street Crips routinely engaged in acts of violence — including murder, shootings, aggravated assaults and witness intimidation. A federal grand jury has returned a second superseding indictment charging two of the defendants – Kwasi Mack also known as Welchs, 26, of Belleville, New Jersey, and Corey Batts, also known as C-Murder and Cee, 30, of Newark, two leaders of the Grape Street Crips – with numerous violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Batts and other gang members controlled drug trafficking and other criminal activities near the Oscar Miles public-housing complex located on Court Street. Batts is charged by complaint with plotting to murder one of the FBI special agents investigating the gang.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the Grape Street Crips are a nationwide street gang, founded in Los Angeles and operating in New Jersey. In addition to engaging in drug trafficking and other criminal activities to enrich themselves and fellow gang members, the rules governing the gang provide that members must retaliate against individuals who cooperate with law enforcement. As a result, gang members routinely engage in acts of intimidation and violence against witnesses, individuals who are believed to be cooperating with law enforcement and law enforcement officers themselves.
In March 2015, during the lawful wiretap of a cell phone used by Ahmed Singleton, 25, also known as Gangsta-Mu and Mooshie, a member of the Grape Street Crips, the DEA intercepted Singleton detailing his efforts to intimidate a witness against him. Singleton was facing trial for aggravated assault in connection with a shooting. Singleton bragged about how he had “beat trial” by intimidating the main witness against him, saying he “had the goons in the back seat so, so he [the witness] recognized all the goons…lined up in the back, like, ‘Oh he got them goons in here, like,’ word up.” As a result, Singleton explained, the witness “ain’t wanna look at nobody eyes, you heard son?” Singleton also said that the attorney for the witness had told Singleton and Singleton’s attorney that the witness would “do the right thing,” meaning refuse to testify against Singleton, so that Singleton would not “take that [expletive] shit off when he come home for telling.” Singleton went on to brag, “I walked out of court free, [expletive], who you know do that?...Who you know cause ruckus on these [expletive] streets, come home, do whatever the [expletive] they want, and still be out here son?” As a result of Singleton’s witness intimidation, the state charges against Singleton had to be dismissed.
In late 2013, a senior member of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips used a social media account to identify an individual as having previously cooperated with a murder investigation conducted by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Several days after that social media post, several members of the Grape Street Crips repeatedly shot and nearly killed the individual who had been identified as having cooperated.
In late 2013, following the arrest of numerous gang members, law enforcement officials learned that members of the Grape Street Crips on the street had directed those members of the enterprise who were incarcerated at a county correctional facility to physically harm an individual who was believed to have cooperated with the law enforcement investigation.
On Oct. 2, 2014, a federal grand jury returned an 18-count second superseding indictment charging Mack and Batts with a variety of violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — multiple counts of using firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes and crimes of violence, conspiracy to distribute heroin and possessing firearms after previously having been convicted of felony offenses.
The attempted murder charges stem from a dispute between the leadership of the Grape Street Crips and a long-time rival of the enterprise.
Batts was charged by federal criminal complaint with plotting to kill an FBI special agent and with solicitation of a crime of violence against the special agent. Batts was attempting to smuggle images of the special agent — obtained from the pretrial discovery turned over to Batts in connection with the above charges — to another gang member in order to kill the special agent.
To protect their gang and drug territory, the Grape Street Crips operating in the Sixth Avenue and North Fifth Street area of Newark used “community guns” that were easily accessible to gang members. DEA special 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.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kotowski, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel, for the investigation leading to the charges. 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 Newark Police Department, under the direction of Director Eugene Venable and Chief Anthony Campos, 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, Elizabeth M. Harris, Jose Almonte and Barry Kamar of the District of New Jersey’s Criminal Division in Newark.
The case against Batts for plotting to murder and soliciting a crime of violence against a special agent of the FBI is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Carletta and Chief Zach Intrater of the Criminal Division’s General Crimes Unit.
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.
The charges and allegations contained in the federal criminal complaints and indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.