U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced the arrests, which are the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation. In total, 22 people were charged for their roles as members, associates and suppliers.
They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute or possess drugs with the intent to distribute more than 1 kilogram of heroin — a charge that carries a minimum sentence of 10 years.
The alleged ringleader, 29-year-old Khalif Toombs of Pleasantville, is accused of using a number of homes and runners in and near Atlantic City to distribute heroin. The investigation found that Toombs received heroin from a supplier in Paterson and used Atlantic City associates to make frequent trips to and from.
“The defendants charged today have been flooding the streets of Atlantic City and surrounding towns with heroin, often with tragic results,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said in a statement. “Numerous deaths and overdoses have been linked to the ‘brands’ pushed by these drug traffickers. With our law enforcement partners, we are working to get these drugs, and the organizations that distribute them, off the streets of Atlantic City.”
The other people charged include: Wilbert Toombs, 63; Dean Johnson, 39; Mayda Hernandez, 50; Joseph Aversa, 37; David Ramirez, 23; James Blackwell, 54; Khalif Davis, 33; Wayne Burnside, 28; Jeremy Carll, 47; Sarah Taliaferro, 26; Philip Surace, 32; Valarie Lamar, 59; Karon Carey, 35; Nasir Brown, 26; Tieyesha Tucker, 25; Jamal Marshall, 32; Tyjuan Demarest, 39; and Terryn Kelsey, 29.
One defendant, 30-year-old Quadir Stanley, was already in state custody for other charges. Two — Blaine Dorsey, 54, and Thomas Randall, 25 — remain still at large.
According to the New Jersey State Police Office of Drug Monitoring and Analysis, heroin marked with these brands accounted for 48 deaths and 84 non-fatal overdoses over two years.