FREEHOLD — A Monmouth County grand jury has indicted 41 people who were charged in December as part of the massive heroin sweep dubbed “Operation Hats Off” undertaken by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and a number of other law enforcement agencies, Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced Wednesday.
The 98-count indictment includes charges against members of a gang known as the “Fruit Town Brims,” a set of the “Bloods” street gang responsible for the distribution of significant quantities of heroin throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
“Heroin is a significant public health concern – not just in Monmouth or Ocean counties but across the country. The drug is unforgiving and it kills indiscriminately,” Gramiccioni said. “Ask anybody who has lived with the tragically real consequences of heroin and you will quickly learn it could be your child too. People need to start paying more attention to this epidemic – any level of denial is unacceptable.”
“We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem, and Operation Hats Off dealt a serious blow to this drug-trafficking organization, but we need to do more. We are soon embarking on an education and awareness campaign, in cooperation with the state Office of the Attorney General and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, to get the message out that this problem cannot be ignored or swept under the proverbial rug. We need to open our eyes to the heroin-induced problems plaguing families in our cities, the suburbs and our rural areas,” Gramiccioni said.
The eight-month investigation, launched in spring 2012, revealed members of the Fruit Town Brims and their conspirators selling about 200 bricks (10,000 bags) of heroin per week, including more than 1,000 bags of heroin to undercover detectives on dozens of occasions. A brick is a package containing fifty bags of heroin. In total, the heroin seized alone has an estimated street value of more than $150,000.
Three of the alleged ringleaders of the criminal enterprise – Ronald Daniels, Jr., 23, of Long Branch, Anna Flores, 21, of Highlands and Christopher Moon, 21, of Highlands – are accused of conspiring with several other gang members to distribute heroin throughout the county and elsewhere. Those other members of the alleged conspiracy include: Ezra Strong, 22, of Long Branch; Donte Gilliard, 22, of Long Branch; Dashawn Graves, 20, of Newark; and Damier Johnson, 22, of Long Branch. These defendants, along with a number of others, were charged with racketeering conspiracy for their alleged involvement in the ongoing criminal enterprise.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the primary heroin suppliers for the above-mentioned defendants were Hassain Jenkins, 39, of Orange and Louis Pennington, a/k/a “Gangsta,” 29, of Long Branch. Daniels and other members of the Fruit Town Brims gang allegedly arranged for the repeated purchase and transport of large quantities of heroin from Essex County and, once received, the product was sold to a number of buyers throughout the area. Buyers charged as part of the operation resided in several locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including towns such as Oceanport, West Long Branch, Rumson, Eatontown, Red Bank, Bayville, Little Silver and Sea Bright.
To date, law enforcement has seized three firearms and five vehicles used in support of the criminal enterprise. Quantities of cocaine and marijuana were also seized during the course of the investigation.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and State law.
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