Gang Busted In Mantua

Posted: April 04, 1997

Law-enforcement authorities have taken down a violent Mantua drug gang whose alleged 18-year-old ringleader got help from his partner's mother, a state welfare worker, in an operation that grossed at least $381,000 on crack sales in 40 days last year.

A court-authorized wiretap on the home phone of the gang's reputed leader, Dante ``Pumpkin'' Hunter, led to the federal indictment of Hunter and 10 other defendants yesterday.

Authorities, who arrested seven suspects yesterday, seized 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, guns, a bulletproof vest, cash and two alligators, which were turned over to the Philadelphia Zoo. Five pit bull dogs also were found in a house used by the gang, officials said.

Among those indicted were Hunter's cousin and reputed partner, Jamal ``Boisie'' Hunter, 22, and several other relatives. They included Jamal Hunter's mother, Julienne Hunter, 48, a welfare worker who makes more than $38,000 a year. A cousin, Ryan Hunter, 18, a fugitive, and an aunt, Sharonda Hunter, 23, were also charged.

``I just find it very troubling,'' said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Beam Winter. ``These are very young men, and their whole support system of what should be authority figures are in there doing it with them.''

The gang used juveniles to help run the drugs and collect money from sales, prosecutors alleged.

After the early-morning raids, most of the defendants were jailed by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard A. Powers III pending bail hearings next week. Two of the defendants already were behind bars and two remained at large.

One man, Lamont ``Muscles'' Williams, 23, was arrested as he arrived for a bail hearing on a drug-related 1993 murder charge.

In January, authorities announced the arrests of eight members of another Mantua gang that allegedly grossed about $4 million on cocaine sales over a one-year period that ended last July.

At a press conference yesterday, U.S. Attorney Michael R. Stiles and Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said the two indictments stem from an ``ongoing'' investigation by a joint city-federal task force into drug gangs operating in Mantua.

``We said in January that we were not finished in Mantua and we still are not finished in Mantua,'' Stiles said.

A neighborhood in West Philadelphia, Mantua has been designated as a ``high intensity drug trafficking area.''

Like the earlier Mantua case, the indictment against the Hunter organization charges that the defendants used guns ``to protect themselves and their operation from competing drug traffickers.''

Some of Hunter's co-defendants have, in the past, been charged in connection with violent crimes. One, George ``Pussface'' Pinkney, 25, now a fugitive, was acquitted in 1995 in the robbery and murder of grocer Chong Chol Lee, despite eyewitness testimony that Pinkney laughed while he left the store after the shooting.

Another, Tyrone Freeman, 18, was arrested in 1994, when he was 15, for allegedly shooting his mother's boyfriend and for firing two shots that missed a pursuing police officer five hours after the first shooting.

The Hunter gang allegedly manufactured crack and packaged and distributed the drug from Dante Hunter's home on Union Street near Cambridge, and from his Aunt Julienne's home on 41st Street near Westminster.

The other Hunter defendants include Cornelius Stallworth, 18, Rufus Stewart, 39, and Montrel ``Twit'' Gary, 20.

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