From information distributed by the U.S. State Attorney's Office and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Twenty-one members and suppliers of a large-scale drug trafficking organization allegedly responsible for distributing heroin and cocaine throughout New Jersey’s Monmouth and Ocean counties have been charged by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.
The alleged leaders of the conspiracy are Robert Britt, 44, of Asbury Park who is also known as “True,”; and Rufus Young, 41, of Asbury Park who also known as “Equan,” “E-Money,” and “Kintock.”
The two men were among the 19 defendants charged in a complaint unsealed today, 13 of whom were arrested this morning as part of a takedown coordinated by federal and local law enforcement authorities.
Britt has been incarcerated in New Jersey in connection with New Jersey state offenses since April, 2013. Three of those charged are fugitives and the remaining defendants were already in custody.
Thomas Shannon, 35, of Asbury Park, also known as “Cuzzo,” – who is also charged in today’s complaint with Britt and Young – was arrested along with Anthony J. Brooks, 44, of San Bernardino, CA, and Rashawn Ramos, 37, of Perth Amboy on March 20, 2014, on a separate complaint charging related offenses.
Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.
Those arrested today are scheduled to make their initial court appearances Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni in Trenton federal court.
Those arrested on March 20, 2014, have been in federal custody since their arrests and will appear before Judge Bongiovanni at a later date.
“This case highlights what has become all too clear: heroin is a serious problem that affects communities across New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said in a statement. “Working with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement will continue to track the purveyors of this poison wherever they set up shop.”
“We are all aware that crimes like the ones alleged in these complaints pose a significant and increasing threat to the public health and safety of our communities,” FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford said., in a release “The arrests today signify the growing efforts of the FBI and our state and local partners, to combat these organizations and make our communities safe for all. Cooperation between dedicated groups of law enforcement partners is, and will continue to be, a critical factor for successfully defending threats that endanger our communities.”
According to the federal criminal complaints filed in Trenton federal court:
From February 2013 through March 2014, the defendants engaged in a drug distribution conspiracy to profit from the distribution of controlled substances – chiefly heroin – in Ocean and Monmouth counties. Through the authorized interception of cell phone calls, the use of confidential informants and other means, law enforcement learned Britt and Young were leaders of the drug trafficking organization (the Britt-Young DTO), responsible for identifying sources of heroin supply.
Britt and Young also oversaw distributors and other conspirators, who sold, packaged and stored the drugs.
Members used temporary prepaid phones, replacing them after a few weeks of use, and spoke in code to avoid detection by law enforcement.
Britt continued to communicate with Young to oversee and participate in the conspiracy, including identifying new sources of supply, narcotics customers, and other unlawful opportunities for the Britt-Young drug trafficking operation, even after he was incarcerated.
The group sold prepackaged bundles of heroin, containing approximately one-fifth of a gram, and “bricks,” which contained approximately one gram. Discussions about drug quality, consumer satisfaction, pricing and the nature of the drug distribution business were captured on calls recorded by law enforcement.
Britt, Young and others acquired heroin from various suppliers, including Shannon, who obtained narcotics from out of state suppliers and laundered the sale proceeds. Shannon received kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine from Brooks and others, who shipped the drugs to him through the mail. The drug packages were sent to Ramos’ residence in New Jersey and he then contacted Shannon to retrieve the packages. Shannon then took the narcotics to stash houses he controlled in Asbury Park and Long Branch, N.J. Shannon deposited cash from his narcotics sales into various third-party “straw” bank accounts and Brooks and other conspirators withdrew the funds at bank locations in California.
On March 20, 2014, law enforcement executed search warrants at Shannon’s stash houses and seized more than one kilogram of heroin, a half-kilogram of cocaine, 30 grams of crack cocaine, and various narcotics-related paraphernalia, including grinders, empty baggies, scales and other items used to package and prepare heroin and cocaine for distribution, as well as three firearms.
“Heroin continues a major contributing factor in much of the crime in Brick Township,” Brick Township Police Chief Nils R. Bergquist Jr. said in a statement.
“We recognize the people who distribute heroin don’t recognize borders and often come from places other than Brick. Our ability to partner with the FBI and Safe Streets Task Force has allowed us to interrupt a significant source of heroin coming into Brick Township. This investigation should serve as a model of how federal, state and local agencies should come together.”
“In our local fight against narcotics we are pleased to have an excellent working relationship with the FBI as well as the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Toms River Police Chief Mitchell Little said. “The effort to rid society of drugs cannot be fought on a single front, and this cooperative effort goes to show how effective law enforcement agencies can be when we use a team approach.”
“These defendants are responsible for delivering the heroin that has been killing people in record numbers,” Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said. “They were profiting off the addiction of heroin by supplying cheap and easy access to anybody with a few bucks in their pocket.”
The conspiracy count with which each defendant is charged carries a minimum potential penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a $10 million fine.
The conspiracy count in the earlier complaint with which Shannon, Ramos and Brooks are charged, and the possession of controlled substances count with which Shannon is charged, also carry a minimum potential penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. Shannon and Brooks are also charged in a money laundering conspiracy count that carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 fine.
“Our undercover narcotic operations beyond the borders of Ocean County and the solid interagency partnerships we have developed are beginning to yield substantial success in stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into Ocean County,” Joseph D. Coronato, Ocean County Prosecutor, said.
“This type of multiagency operation, striking at the top level distribution leadership, is the most significant way to address the ever increasing heroin epidemic threatening our families in this county, state and nation.”
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, Red Bank Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ford; officers of the Brick Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Bergquist: and officers of the Toms River Police Department, under the direction of Chief Little, with the investigation. He additionally credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge George Belsky; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; officers of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of acting Prosecutor Gramiccioni; and officers of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Coronato. He also thanked the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and the Neptune Township, Asbury Park, Marlboro, Long Branch and Freehold police departments for their roles in the case.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Grippo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.