Police arrest 7 in Camden drug ring bust

Posted: April 11, 2013

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman likened the drug operation in Camden's Morgan Village section that resulted in the arrests of seven people Tuesday to a "drive-through restaurant."

"You call ahead, you could order something. You could walk up or you could drive off the highway, pick up stuff, drive around the block and get right back on the highway," he said in an interview Tuesday about the drug set, easily accessible from Interstates 676 and 76.

He added: "Like a restaurant, they had a pretty broad menu. They had heroin, they had cocaine, they had crack."

The suspects themselves likened their alleged operation to professional sports teams: They coded drugs by the uniform colors of various teams, authorities said.

Crack cocaine, for example, was packaged in blue-colored bags and referred to as "Giants." Powder cocaine was sold in clear bags and referred to as "White Sox," authorities said. Heroin sold in red bags was "Redskins," and "Steelers" if sold in yellow bags.

Camden police Chief Scott Thomson said 2,000 bags of heroin, a pound of cocaine and $200,000 in cash were seized, along with 17 guns.

The suspects allegedly ran the drug trafficking organization around the clock, for at least a year in the area of Eighth and Tulip streets, in a city with more than 170 open-air drug sets, Fishman's office announced. They face drug possession and distribution charges.

Agents with the FBI, State Police, and detectives and investigators with the Camden City Police and Camden County Prosecutor's Office arrested seven people; an eighth suspect is at large.

The investigation started in January 2012 and included wire taps and surveillance.

The network also operated from a retail shopping plaza in the 700 block of Morgan Boulevard and areas within the Crestbury Apartment public housing project in the 2500 block of South Eighth Street, authorities said.

Carl Wiles, 23, of Oaklyn, also known as "Call Call," was the alleged leader. Keith Jackson, 30, of Camden, served as the supplier, and Fuquan Pulliam, 23, of Pennsauken and Khalil Mims, 22, of Camden, served as managers.

Camden residents, Justin Gould, 24, Marqueis Thomas-Randall, 21, and William Gideon, 19, functioned as workers, authorities said.

Camden resident Elquinzie Lewis, 21, also a worker, is at large.

Authorities touted the arrests as evidence of the close collaboration between the prosecutor's office, Camden City Police, and federal agencies like the FBI, DEA, and IRS to tackle drug trafficking, gang activity, and violent crime in Camden.

The initiative, which started in 2010, operates out of high-security premises near the Camden waterfront shared with L-3 Communications, a defense firm.

Lt. Frank Falco, who heads the homicide, narcotics and intelligence units with the prosecutor's office, said the recent investigation, like others, are discussed daily in 10 a.m. meetings where officials share intelligence and develop strategies.

"When we walk into that 10 o'clock meeting, all the egos are out door, and one goal is in mind: What we could do together to get the bad guys off the streets," he said.

Thomson said he mentioned Tuesday's arrests and the weapons seized in a meeting in Washington with Vice President Biden. The vice president met with Thomson and other police chiefs to discuss gun violence and gun legislation proposed in Congress.

Thomson said loaded 30-round and 100-round magazines and an AR-15 rifle were among the weaponry seized. The clips and the assault-style rifle are all illegal to own in New Jersey. The rifle was identical to the one used in the recent Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

"To be located under one roof, working in lockstep, sharing intelligence, it's enabled us to conclude with investigations like today's - especially in times of austerity," Thomson said.

Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829, at dsimon@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @darransimon.

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