TRENTON, N.J. — Federal agents announced the arrests of more than two dozen alleged gang members Thursday, claiming they used violence as part of a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of heroin and other drugs in New Jersey’s capital city.
Those charged were facing drug trafficking, weapons and conspiracy counts, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said during a news conference at the federal courthouse in Trenton. He said 12 people were arrested early Thursday, while 10 other defendants were already in custody on unrelated charges.
They were due to make their initial court appearances later Thursday. Four others defendants remain at large.
Investigators used court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of heroin, confidential sources and other techniques to bring down the conspiracy, which ran from October 2017 to October 2018. Besides heroin, they say gang members also sold powder cocaine, crack cocaine, pain pills and other drugs, according to a 64-page criminal complaint unsealed Thursday
Authorities say a significant amount of recent gun violence in Trenton resulted from an ongoing dispute between members of the drug conspiracy and a rival gang.
Carpenito said the barrage of gunfire at the Art All Night Trenton festival in June may be linked to the conflict of these two gangs. But authorities wouldn’t identify the specific gangs with which the alleged drug traffickers were believed to be affiliated.
About 1,000 people were attending the festival that showcases local art, music, food and films when gunfire authorities attributed to a neighborhood gang dispute began. One suspect was killed and 29 people were wounded.
Carpenito said two of the defendants in the drug trafficking case — Jakir Taylor, 28, of Trenton, and Jerome Roberts, of Willingboro — obtained regular supplies of hundreds of bricks of heroin from David Antonio, whom they referred to as “Papi.” Antonio is not a U.S. citizen and previously had been deported after serving a prison sentence for a prior conviction, but Carpenito said Antonio later returned to the U.S. and soon continued trafficking drugs.