For Immediate Release
Essex County Man Admits Possessing Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking Crime
NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man today admitted possessing a handgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Ricky Terrell, 24, of Newark, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez to an information charging him with one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, specifically, the possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Stephen Crane Village is a public housing complex in Newark, on the border with Belleville. From February 2019 through February 2020, law enforcement officers investigated individuals who controlled an open-air drug market that operated within Stephen Crane Village.
Through numerous controlled purchases of narcotics, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical surveillance, and the analysis of telephone call detail records, law enforcement determined that numerous individuals conspired to distribute and did actually distribute narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and cocaine base, in and around Stephen Crane Village.
On Feb. 25, 2020, law enforcement lawfully searched Terrell’s residence and recovered heroin and cocaine, a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun, and numerous rounds of ammunition. The possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime carries a statutory mandatory minimum term of five years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for April 21, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson in Newark; the Belleville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Minichini; special agents and task force officers of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark; the Newark Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II; and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service, the Nutley Police Department, the Bloomfield Police Department, the West Orange Police Department, the Verona Police Department, the Orange Police Department and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance with this case.
This investigation was part of the Newark Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with state, federal, county, and local law enforcement to investigate crime in Newark and the surrounding cities. This case is also conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
This case is also a part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensured that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Agnew of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.