The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced on Feb. 25 that a drug trafficking gang that operated out of an Essex County apartment complex has been put out of business by law enforcement. The group allegedly stored fentanyl, cocaine and heroin in an apartment on Franklin Avenue in Newark and then sold the drugs at a nearby 354-unit public housing development. Eleven men, who are all area residents, have been taken into custody and charged with narcotics possession. Two of the men are also charged with distributing drugs.

The investigation into the gang’s alleged activities lasted about a year and involved federal, state and county law enforcement agencies. The press release reveals that agents and officers gathered evidence by making undercover drug buys, studying cellphone records and keeping the apartment complex under surveillance. The operation was a challenging one because the complex has numerous entrances and the apartments are laid out around several courtyards.

One of the men is also accused of murdering one of his associates. When police searched his residence in December 2019, they allegedly found the handgun that was used to commit the crime and several items of bloodstained clothing. Officers also claim to have discovered a pair of bloody boots with a tread pattern that matches footprints found at the murder scene. According to media reports, the men face prison sentences of between 20 years and life if they are convicted.

Individuals facing decades behind bars on drug charges often believe that full cooperation with law enforcement will lead to a more lenient sentence, but experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise them to remain silent until the evidence against them has been scrutinized and assessed. Attorneys could also point out that police officers do not have the authority to negotiate plea agreements and prosecutors may be less inclined to offer favorable terms to a defendant who has already confessed and made a full statement.