Drug ring ran out of Newark rec center: Feds

Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference regarding a major drug bust, at the office of the New York Attorney General in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Three city employees were among 12 people charged Monday in what federal authorities said was a drug ring connected to the Bloods street gang that used a recreation center where the three worked to receive and stash their merchandise.

Of the three, two had prior criminal records involving drugs, according to the U.S. attorney's office. At an afternoon news conference that followed the U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito's announcement of the charges, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the three were part-time employees and therefore not subject to criminal background checks under city policy.

Baraka said that would change.

"That's something that wasn't done; we're going to do it now," he said.

Eight of those charged were arrested Wednesday, three were already in custody and one was at large. They were scheduled to make a first appearance in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon. No attorneys were immediately listed for the three.

"It's outrageous," Carpenito said. "You take these jobs, you have a responsibility to care for the children and the community you serve."

According to a criminal complaint, the group included reputed members of the G-Shine set of the Bloods street gang and is alleged to have sold heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine. Three of those charged — Rahim Jackson, Arthur Hardy and Edward Williams — worked at the Rotunda Recreation and Wellness Center as recreational aides about 20 hours per week, Baraka said. They have been suspended and will be terminated, he said.

Hardy was incorrectly listed as the center's director in the criminal complaint, Baraka said, due to a clerical error on the city's website.

The center offers activities such as chess, swimming, boxing and basketball, according to its website.

The investigation began in early 2018 and employed wiretaps, undercover buys and physical surveillance, authorities said. In one exchange by phone and text, Williams Hardy and another alleged co-conspirator allegedly set up a drug exchange on a night when Williams was working at the rec center.

Carpenito and Newark Police Director Anthony Ambrose didn't give details on how or where the drugs were stored or whether any children were exposed to them. Baraka said the city hadn't received any complaints about the three employees or about anything suspicious at the center.

Newark has implemented a prisoner re-entry program in recent years that helps former inmates gain employment. The three employees weren't part of that program, Baraka said.