Camden Drug Trafficking Organization Charged with Selling Heroin, Methamphetamine, and Assault Weapons
CAMDEN, NJ—Four members of a drug trafficking organization allegedly responsible for distributing heroin and crystal methamphetamine in the Camden area were arrested today by federal, state and local law enforcement officers, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Arrested this morning were the alleged leader of the conspiracy, Wendell Fleetwood, a/k/a “Dell,” 28, of Camden and Sicklerville, N.J, and three other members of the conspiracy: Wendell Bethea, a/k/a “Rell,” a/k/a “Ruger;” 25, of Camden and Maple Shade, N.J.; and Julio Alvarado, 25, and Erica Fleetwood, 24, both of Camden. A fifth federal defendant, Brandon Jones, 25, of Camden, remains at large. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Camden County Crime Collaboration (C-4).
Each defendant was charged in a federal criminal complaint unsealed today with one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. The defendants are also charged in separate counts in connection with distribution of heroin and/or methamphetamine to an undercover officer. Wendell Fleetwood and Bethea are additionally charged with possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Bethea faces three counts in connection with selling three high-capacity assault weapons to an undercover officer, as well as a handgun that had been used in a recent homicide. The defendants are scheduled to make their initial court appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court.
“Because of C-4—our collaborative partnership with state and local law enforcement—as well as the more robust Camden County PD and its community policing orientation, and other efforts, Camden is becoming safer every day,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “We are grateful that all of our law enforcement partners share our vision and commitment to make Camden the safe city its residents deserve.”
“While the success of this operation hinged on the teamwork of many agencies, it was the bravery, selflessness and dedication of the law enforcement officers involved that made these significant arrests possible,” Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo said.
According to the complaint:
From November 2013 through October 2014, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs—primarily heroin—in and around Camden. Through the authorized interception of cell phone calls and texts, the use of various surveillance methods, controlled undercover purchases and other means, law enforcement learned that Wendell Fleetwood was the leader of the drug trafficking organization (the “Wendell Fleetwood DTO”). He supplied wholesale quantities of heroin to Bethea and Alvarado, who either resold it to other distributors or repackaged it into smaller quantities for sale to customers.
In intercepted calls, Bethea, Jones and Alvarado and their associates discussed and directed the purchasing, processing, packaging, storing and distributing of heroin, as well as its quality and the pricing and collection of the proceeds from its sale. In addition to replacing their cellular phones after only a couple weeks of use and speaking in code to avoid detection by law enforcement, the Wendell Fleetwood DTO allegedly used Erica Fleetwood to relay drug-related messages from her brother, Wendell, to Bethea and Jones. Jones, Alvarado and Erica Fleetwood also conducted counter surveillance for the DTO. The Wendell Fleetwood DTO also replaced their vehicles frequently to avoid detection, renting cars or obtaining vehicles which were stolen or fraudulently obtained.
“Camden’s drug gangs victimize the city in so many ways—through the poison they sling, and the violence tied to the trade,” Edward J. Hanko, FBI Special Agent in Charge, said. “The FBI’s South Jersey Violent Offender and Gang Task Force, alongside our law enforcement partners, is committed to dismantling these despicable drug trafficking organizations.”
“Heroin abuse has been a major issue facing New Jersey,” Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division, said. “The arrest of these individuals highlights the fact that members of DEA will continue to do its part to remove those responsible for putting those drugs on the street.”
The conspiracy count with which each defendant is charged carries a minimum potential penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine. The firearms charges faced by Bethea each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“The dismantling of this sophisticated criminal network wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and cooperation of all the law enforcement partners who worked long and hard to identify these suspects and ensure their arrest,” Camden Police Chief J. Scott Thomson said. “The removal of these individuals from the community this morning will have an immediate positive impact on public safety in Camden as the supply of illegal drugs and guns on Camden’s streets has just been reduced.”
“The success of this collaboration proves the value of sharing intelligence with others in law enforcement,” Col. Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the N.J. State Police, said. “Multiple agencies were targeting different individuals who turned out to be working together to push drugs into the South Jersey region. This was a well-organized group who went to great lengths to avoid detection, such as speaking in code and frequently changing cell phones.”
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, Cherry Hill Resident Agency’s South Jersey Violent Offender and Gang Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Hanko; special agents of the DEA, Maple Shade Resident Office’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Group, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kotowski; investigators of the N.J. State Police’s Violent and Organized Crime Bureau, Trafficking South Unit, under the direction of Superintendent Fuentes; investigators with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Colalillo; detectives of the Camden County Police Department—Metro, under the direction of Chief J. Scott Thomson, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. He also thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge David W. Bosch; and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Charles H. Billingham, for their roles in the case. He also thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—Homeland Security Investigations; the N.J. Office of Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice; the Delaware River Port Authority, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, the Gloucester City Police Department and the Cherry Hill Police Department for their roles in the investigation.
The government is represented by Deputy U.S. Attorney Nelson S.T. Thayer Jr. and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Angermeier of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case was developed through the work of the Camden County Crime Collaboration. Every federal, state and local law enforcement agency and prosecutor’s office responsible for combating drug trafficking, gang activity and violent crime in Camden has come together in one location to share intelligence, develop strategies and support the investigative and prosecutorial efforts of its partners. C-4 has merged the individual missions of the various law enforcement agencies into a single strategic attack on drug trafficking and drug-related violent crime. This coordination greatly enhances the law enforcement community’s ability to identify and prosecute Camden’s most dangerous criminals.