Afro-Lineal Organized Crime

Law enforcement has long been reluctant to accept the existence of Afro-lineal organized crime, based primarily on an opinion that such ethnic groups were incapable of structuring a syndicate of any consequence. Moreover, despite the existence of major organized criminal groups in surrounding areas, New Jersey was unrealistically viewed as not having a problem of Afro-lineal organized crime. In New York City, for instance, drug lord Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, with his multi-million dollar heroin syndicate, was recognized as a significant racketeer in the late 1970's. And in Philadelphia at the same time, the late "Black Mafia" member Tyrone Palmer controlled a lucrative heroin and cocaine distribution network. Nonetheless, law enforcement tended to be concerned more with the volume of arrests of individual narcotics offenders than with a detailed intelligence collection effort targeting the groups that distributed the narcotics. 
Historically, many ardent supporters of illegal numbers gambling were in the African American community. Over the decades, the illegal lotteries and numbers games were actually controlled by the LCN, and black operatives worked within the framework established by them. Today, that control has begun to diminish in some areas of New Jersey. In Camden County, for instance, one such African-American numbers group has been operating independently for several years under the control of Leonard A. Jones. This group also conducts its illegal gambling in parts of Gloucester and Burlington Counties and is estimated to net nearly $1 million dollars per year. 
In northern New Jersey, on the other hand, African American illegal gambling operatives work with the LCN. For example, Louis H. Tyler of Jersey City runs a gambling and narcotics operation in conjunction with the Genovese/Gigante LCN family. In Trenton, a person known as Wayne Pack conducts an illegal lottery which lays off to Gambino/Gotti LCN associate Anthony "Pushy" Pulcinello. Several other African American gambling operations exist in New Jersey but their status either independent or affiliated with another organized crime group has not been determined.

African American organized crime in New Jersey has, for years, been comprised mostly of regional gangs, some with ties to groups such as La Cosa Nostra and some independent. Despite their regional nature, the gangs are nonetheless dangerous and violent. The late Roland "Pops" Bartlett was a major African American organized crime figure in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Bartlett, who was a drug runner for the "Black Mafia" in the 1960's, operated an extensive heroin distribution network in North Philadelphia from 1980 until his federal indictment in March, 1987. His organization expanded into cocaine distribution in its later years. Known as "The Family," Bartlett's group was estimated to consist of 60 members and associates, 35 of whom were indicted with him in 1987. Much of the group's income was invested in the corporate entities Bartlett Enterprises, Inc. and Domino Records, Inc. Among the group's known assets were a 60 acre retreat in the Pocono Mountains; five houses, two lots and a night-club in Philadelphia; a $750,000 home in Cherry Hill; 32 acres in Georgia and several race horses. Although their drug territory was North Philadelphia, Bartlett group members and associates sold heroin and cocaine to street operatives in Camden and Burlington Counties in New Jersey. It was estimated that the Bartlett organized crime group grossed close to $7 million dollars per year during its life-span of more than six years dealing drugs. Roland Bartlett died in federal prison on January 15, 1990. 
In March, 1989, an operation similar to the Bartlett organization was discovered in the New Brunswick area. On July 28, 1989, members of the Isaac Wright group were arrested by the Somerset and Middlesex County prosecutor's offices and the police departments of New Brunswick, Edison and Franklin Township. Wright, the 27-year-old owner of the New York City-based company Express Records, was arrested in Edison, along with 10 members of his drug distribution network. It was estimated that the Wright group grossed approximately $20 million dollars a year from cocaine trafficking in Essex, Somerset and Middlesex Counties. Also arrested with Wright was his wife, Sunshine, who is a recording artist for his record company, and Wright's principal cocaine supplier, a Dominican named Roberto Alexander of Passaic. The cocaine seized at the time of Wright's arrest had an estimated street value of $480,000. 
Between July, 1987, and November, 1989, the Pretlow brothers Bilal, Robert and Thomas operated a cocaine distribution network in Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway and Newark. An undercover investigation by local and State Police led to numerous arrests of members of this network in November, 1988, for possession and sale of cocaine. Unknown at the time was that many of those arrested were part of an African American organized crime group led by the Pretlow brothers. The group was initially divided into two drug distribution networks, one headed by Bilal Pretlow, who was 18 years old at the time, and the other by his 21-year-year-old brother, Robert. Continuing investigation by Elizabeth Police revealed that the two networks had merged into one group under the name "E'Port Posse/Phase II," with Bilal Pretlow as the leader. A high school dropout, Bilal Pretlow once sold marijuana on the streets of Elizabeth for Jamaican distributors, and in 1987 was able to take over their drug territory. The Pretlow group has a reputation for violence. Between November, 1988, and November, 1989, the group is believed to have been responsible for at least seven murders and one attempted murder. The group's drug dealing is estimated to have grossed between $3.5 million and $4 million during that same period. Bilal Pretlow continued to act as supervisor, even while in Union County Jail, by having unlimited access to a telephone and by having his subordinates call-forward his calls to public telephones and designated private residences. A total of 31 members were arrested in November, 1989, and charged with various narcotics violations. Law enforcement officials believe that at least 20 to 30 additional members of the group, mostly juveniles, escaped detection and arrest. 
The Essex County-based African-American organized crime network headed by Wayne B. "Akbar" Pray is believed to be one of the largest in New Jersey. Like the Roland "Pops" Bartlett organization from Philadelphia, the Akbar organization calls itself The Family, and consists of more than 300 active members. In addition to its drug distribution networks, the group has been active in real estate ventures, weapons dealing and contract murders. 
In 1988, Pray and four of his subordinates were indicted under the federal drug kingpin statute. Pray has since been convicted. Federal officials estimated that his organization distributed 341 kilos of cocaine and 354 kilos of marijuana in less than two years, grossing more than $4.5 million annually. Pray allegedly travelled throughout the United States, making deals and arranging for transportation of narcotics. He also travelled to Colombia and the West Indies to purchase his supply of cocaine. On January 12, 1990, Pray was sentenced under the federal drug kingpin statute to life in prison without-parole. Although the vast majority of his drug distribution network remains intact in Essex County, no successor has yet surfaced. 
Also in the Newark area are several smaller African-American groups such as the Ratchford Brothers, the Brown Family, and a group led by Roger "Little Akbar" Williams. The Ratchford brothers Eddie, Willie and Marvin control drug distribution in the Clinton Hill section of Newark, as well as out of the Stella Wright Homes development and the Hayes Homes project. The youngest brother, Eddie Ratchford, is believed to be the leader of their networks. All three brothers have extensive records for crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, weapons offences and narcotics violations. Their operation is small by design and is believed to consist of no more than 15 persons. 
The Ratchford Brothers have a working relationship with the Brown Family, three brothers who operated a small drug distribution network in the area of 17th Avenue in Newark. Bo Brown is presently incarcerated, Phil Brown was killed., and the third brother, Dennis "Moofi" Brown, is still operating in Newark. A third network, controlled by Roger Williams, is a group of between 20 and 25 members who distribute cocaine in the Prince Street area of Newark. Williams' group is also believed to have a territorial relationship with the Ratchford Brothers. 
The Junior Black Mafia, commonly referred to as the "JBM," is based in Philadelphia. The JBM came into existence in 1985 to counter a sudden migration of New York City-based Jamaican posses onto the Philadelphia drug scene. Original members of the 1960's Black Mafia (and later Black, Inc.) organized African-American youths into the JBM to thwart the Jamaican influence and to regain from the Jamaicans control of drug distribution in the affected areas of Philadelphia. These original Black Mafia individuals included Robert "Nudie" Mims, James "Naim" Madison, Michael "Blood" Youngblood, James Cole, Hayward Cole and Leroy "Skip" Jackson. 
On July 11, 1990, Samuel R. Christian, one of the principal operatives of the Black Mafia in the late 1960's and early 1970's, was arrested in Philadelphia for possession of crack cocaine. Christian gave police a fictitious name when he was arrested, and posted bail before fingerprint records could establish his true identity. Fifteen days later, he was arrested in Syracuse, New York, where he was on parole for an attempted robbery in 1971 during which a New York police officer was shot. Prior to his arrest in Philadelphia, it was learned that Christian travelled frequently between Syracuse and Philadelphia to facilitate the organization and control of the JBM. 
According to Pennsylvania authorities, the JBM consists of approximately 100 members and as many as 300 street level associates. Within Philadelphia, the JBM has been engaged in the distribution of cocaine and crack, as well as such other criminal activity as murder, money laundering, assault and firearms violations. 
Information regarding the JBM's influence or activity in New Jersey has been limited due to the lack of a coordinated intelligence collection effort. The State Commission of Investigation has been able to document at least two members and eight associates of the Junior Black Mafia living in portions of Camden and Burlington Counties. To date, these 10 persons have had no significant involvement in the same criminal activity as their counterparts in Philadelphia. However, just as the old Black Mafia from Philadelphia eventually spread into Camden, Burlington, Gloucester, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties, it is likely that this new group of African-American organized criminals will follow suit. 

Five Percenters
This group of African-Americans is part of a religious sect who considered themselves the elite percentage of the Nation of Islam when they split from the group in 1964. The Five Percenters were founded by Clarence 13X, who changed his name to "Allah" and established himself as the "God-head" of his "supreme family." Clarence 13X split from Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, because of Clarence's unorthodox beliefs that all black men are gods and because of his use of tobacco and alcohol, contrary to Muslim doctrine. Clarence 13X was assassinated in Harlem in 1969 by a group of his dissatisfied followers. 
Many Five Percenters are sincere in their religious beliefs and are peaceful, law abiding citizens. However, the Five Percenters' belief that nothing created on earth can harm them has led many into drug abuse. And those who are pugnacious are usually involved in drug distribution and use their membership in the religious sect strictly for the attendant benefits. The SCI has developed information on more than 1,000 Five Percenters engaged in drug distribution in Camden, Atlantic City, Trenton, Asbury Park, Long Branch, Red Bank, Elizabeth, Newark and Plainfield. 
One New Jersey-based Five Percenter group, a splinter group called the Aso Posse, was led by Hakeem Abdul Shaheed (aka Robert E. Molley, aka Midget Molley), who oversaw a multi-kilo cocaine distribution network in Atlantic City. Shaheed, a resident of Vineland, was estimated to have controlled a drug network of 60 persons, the majority of whom were also Five Percenters. Shaheed, who often flaunted his drug financed wealth by wearing a gold crown, had grown up in the poverty of the Atlantic City public housing projects. Ironically, residents of these same projects became the ultimate victims of Shaheed's cocaine trafficking. 
Victor (Shorty) Fernandez, a Dominican who lived in Edgewater and in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, was the principal supplier of cocaine to Shaheed's organization. In February, 1989, Shaheed, Fernandez, and 18 members of the drug distribution network were arrested by federal authorities, who estimated that Shaheed's organization was obtaining and distributing $1 million worth of cocaine per month in the Atlantic City projects. Shortly after Shaheed's arrest, several Jamaican drug dealers from Brooklyn moved into the Atlantic City projects to take over his territory. Shaheed was convicted and on January 22, 1990, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison. 
In addition to the groups already discussed, the SCI has identified at least 46 other African American criminal groups operating within New Jersey. The leaders and total number of members and associates of these groups has yet to be accurately determined. 

 

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