Pressure on Jamaican Street Gangs
Results in Large Marijuana Seizure
Elizabeth, N.J. - As a part of Attorney General Peter Harvey's "Gangs, Guns & Drugs" initiative, the New Jersey State Police, with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Authority and the Elizabeth Police Department, seized almost 700 pounds of marijuana believed to be destined for distribution by Jamaican posse street gangs in the New York/North Jersey metropolitan area. This is a continuation of the Champagne Posse investigation in August 2003 that resulted in the arrests and/or indictments of 65 individuals associated with the violent street gang.
State Police Street Gang Unit detectives learned that a tractor-trailer owned by Commercial Renaissance of Sacramento, California had been driven to New Jersey with a large shipment of marijuana and was parked at a warehouse on South First Street, Elizabeth. On Tuesday, April 6, the troopers called for assistance from our narcotics investigation partners. The DEA-Newark and Elizabeth Police Department immediately set up surveillance on the location and confirmed the presence of the truck.
Task force members then approached and questioned the two occupants of the truck. A Port Authority Police Department canine team examined the truck and received a positive "hit" on the trailer and its load for the presence of narcotics. A search of the trailer revealed sixteen cardboard boxes containing approximately 690 pounds of marijuana secreted within a full load of lettuce destined for Bronx, New York. The illicit load had an estimated street value of $1,350,000 and is believed to have been en route to violent Jamaican gangs for street-level distribution.
The truck's occupants, Lennox Davis, 42, Hawthorne, California and Gilbert Francis, 41, Los Angeles, were arrested and charged with possession of CDS with intent to distribute. Bail for each was set at $1 million cash and they were lodged in Elizabeth City jail. On April 7, 2004, they were transferred to Union County jail.
Attorney General Peter Harvey sees this seizure as proof that the increased pressure on illegal drug distributors is making an impact. "The gates to New Jersey are closing to drug traffickers," Harvey said. "The strength borne of solid law enforcement partnerships is raising a wall around our citizens to protect us from the crime and violence associated with illicit narcotics."
The Attorney General's "Gangs, Guns & Drugs" initiative, begun in 2003, is responsible for pulling resources from federal, state and local law enforcement to battle this triple threat. The effort includes personnel from the State Police Street Gang Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), New Jersey Department of Corrections, and the Juvenile justice Commission, as well as county and local authorities.
Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, is encouraged by the progress made under the Attorney General's initiative. "We have now established strong evidence of the link between large-scale international drug trafficking groups and criminal street gangs that distribute drugs on the corners," Fuentes said. "The continuing dividends from Operation Moet (2003) show that we will be relentless in our pursuit of gangs and the drugs they bring to our state."
Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of Newark's DEA office, Michael Pasterchick, Jr. applauds the multi-agency cooperation that led to this investigation. "The shared intelligence and investigative skills from our partnering agencies is making a truly successful partnership," said Pasterchick.
The DEA's Newark Office ASAC, Timothy Ogden, echoed the praise for this cooperative effort. "This joint investigation of the DEA task force was a result great police work, which is having substantial impacts on the marijuana trade in the greater New York metropolitan area," said Ogden.
Port Authority Director of Public Safety/Police Superintendent Charles D. DeRienzo said, "This collaborative effort is another example of how important cooperation is between our department and the various federal, state and local law enforcement entities." The Port Authority is a major gateway to this region for millions of people and millions of tons of cargo each year.
This seizure is a continuation of the major multi-agency investigation spearheaded by the State Police Street Gang Unit dubbed Operation Moet. In August of 2003, Operation Moet resulted in the arrest and/or indictment of 65 alleged members of the violent Champagne Posse. The investigation targeted the leadership hierarchy of this gang, which controlled most of the marijuana trade in North Jersey.
On Wednesday, April 07, inspectors from the New Jersey Department of Health condemned the load of lettuce, valued at $80,000 for the safety of the public. The truck was seized pending further investigation and possible forfeiture proceedings.
On August 12, 2003, State Police stopped a tractor-trailer load of garage doors also destined for Bronx, N.Y. and intercepted 21 boxes stuffed with 1,575 pounds of marijuana. Two New York men were arrested in that seizure. The criminal organization responsible for that shipment is believed to be the same one responsible for the load taken in Elizabeth on Tuesday.
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