About a dozen people have been arrested and charged with racketeering and other offenses in connection with a pattern of identity theft, tax fraud, illegal production of fake debit and gift cards, and drug sales taking place in and around Union County during the last several months, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park and Elizabeth Police Chief Patrick Shannon announced Wednesday.
A joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Guns, Gangs, Drugs, and Violent Crimes Task Force and the Elizabeth Police Department, with assistance provided by members of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the Union County Police Department, the Union County Emergency Response Team SWAT Unit, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, resulted in arrests made in five locations on Tuesday morning. The primary target of the operation was 24-year-old Arthur Negron, Jr., a.k.a. “Smooth,” of East Orange, who is charged with first-degree racketeering, second-degree serving as the leader of an organized crime entity, third-degree theft, and fourth-degree unlawful receipt of a credit card. Abdul Ward, 23, a.k.a. “Three Shot,” of Plainfield and Lamont Johnson, 26, a.k.a. “Fatty-O,” of Elizabeth, also were charged with first-degree racketeering, with Johnson additionally charged with third-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.
Charged with second-degree racketeering as a result of the investigation were Katrina Davis, a.k.a. “Trina,” of Newark; Gregory Torres, 20, a.k.a. “Young Hood,” of Elizabeth; Nygera Arrington, 21, a.k.a. “Timber,” of East Orange; Walter Daniels, 24, a.k.a. “S.K.,” of Elizabeth; Malcolm Cooks, 25, a.k.a. “Cool C,” of Elizabeth; Monte Foster, 28, of Elizabeth; Shakir Scott, 29, of Newark; and Arthur Negron Sr., 41, of Roselle. Cooks additionally was charged with a second-degree drug offense and two third-degree drug offenses after being found to be in possession of a quantity of heroin, while Arthur Negron Sr. and Arrington additionally were charged with second- and third-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, respectively. Arrington also was charged with fourth-degree possession of a defaced firearm and fourth-degree possession of a large-capacity magazine.
Willie Williams, 56, of Elizabeth also was charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance as a result of this operation.
The investigation began late last year, and it quickly became focused on confirmed members and associates of Elizabeth’s 111 N.H.C. (Neighborhood Crips) street gang. The investigation initially revealed that members and associates of the gang had become engaged in a pattern of white-collar crime, specifically through participation in two separate scams.
Through the first of the two scams, defendants would allegedly buy stolen identities of real people, prepare fraudulent W-2 forms, and submit fraudulent income tax returns early in the tax season; this way, the defendants would collect tax refunds they were not entitled to long before the identity theft victims realized that their personal information had been stolen. This scheme affected dozens of victims and generated tens of thousands of dollars in illegally obtained funds.
To execute the second scam, the defendants allegedly obtained a machine they used to create fake gift cards and prepaid debit cards, which they in turn used in stores throughout New Jersey; a search of Arthur Negron Jr.’s East Orange home led to the seizure of the card-making machine as well as hundreds of gift cards and prepaid debit cards and two handguns.
The alleged financial crimes were committed not only to support the lifestyles of the individuals involved in the scheme, but also to provide for the expenses of the incarcerated members of the 111s, such as bail money, commissary accounts, and attorneys’ fees. Negron was the primary conduit for providing for these expenses, which is the basis for his charge of serving as the leader of an organized crime entity.
Bail was set at $1 million for Arthur Negron Jr., Ward, Johnson, and Arthur Negron Sr.; $700,000 for Daniels and Scott; $600,000 for Cooks; and $500,000 for Davis, Torres, Arrington, and Foster.
All of the defendants are expected to make their first appearances in court in the coming days. First-degree crimes can yield penalties of 10 to 20 years in state prison, while second-degree crimes often result in terms of 5 to 10 years.
Anyone who feels as though they may have been a victim of the aforementioned identity theft and/or tax fraud during recent months is being asked to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Vito Colacitti at 908-810-6598.
Four of the defendants charged this week additionally are facing pending charges of murder, attempted murder , and/or weapons offenses in connection with three shootings that took place during the last year.
On March 12, 2015, Ward and Arthur Negron Jr. were arrested and charged in connection with the shooting death of 31-year-old Wilson Valdez of Plainfield, which occurred that same day; Ward was charged with murder, weapons offenses, and eluding police, while Negron Jr. was charged with weapons offenses only.
The week before, Torres was arrested and charged, along with co-defendants Jamar Mosby and Firicin Augustin, in connection with the December 12, 2014 shooting death of Bilal Fullman, 25, of Woodbridge.
In January, Daniels was indicted on charges of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree gang criminality, and two second-degree weapons offenses in connection with a July 20, 2014 incident in which two men were shot in Roselle.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.