A five-month FBI investigation crippled a violent Atlantic City drug-trafficking ring that ruled with fear and intimidation to keep a million-dollar business alive in the city’s most troubled housing project, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Tuesday.
Twenty-five members and associates of Dirty Blok were arrested in a pre-dawn raid carried out by more than 300 federal agents, and state and Atlantic City police. Three defendants are still wanted, while six other were already in custody.
Those already jailed include Mykal Derry, 32, the alleged gang leader who is accused of setting up the Feb. 10 killing of drug rival Tyquinn James, 25, who was found shot several times in the head in the 1300 block of Adriatic Avenue. Derry’s 22-year-old brother, Malik, is the alleged shooter and Dirty Blok member.
The gang’s reach included Stanley Holmes Village, Carver Hall, Schoolhouse Apartments and Adams and Cedar Courts, Fishman said, where they “created an atmosphere of fear and presented real danger to the people who shared their Atlantic City neighborhood. And they did it to prosper from the illegal sale of drugs.”
Now, “it will definitely be safer and improve the quality of life,” Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said.
There was a hierarchy in the gang, which was led by Mykal Derry and Tyrone Ellis, 31, of Galloway Township. Under them were jobs including distributors, enforcers, runners and the “youngin’s,” the junior members who did street-level deals, and would often obtain weapons or carry out the violence.
Women were used mainly as couriers or facilitators to help launder money and secure things such as vehicles. Some even gave their public housing apartments up as so-called “trap houses,” used to store and distribute drugs, according to the complaint.
A bail bondsman — identified only as PJL — was also allegedly used to create fraudulent proof of employment to explain the source of bail money.
While the Derry brothers talk on one intercepted phone call about their love of the HBO television show “The Wire,” they are unaware that — like the Baltimore-based show — they are being overheard on wiretaps.
The 225-page criminal complaint includes information from thousands of intercepted phone calls and texts that paint a picture of a group that thought nothing of killing as a solution to its problems, and even bemoaned the loss of guns and a drug house when an alleged associate, Derreck Mack, was killed by police after he allegedly pulled a handgun on officers.
Mack, 18, planned to shoot at police Dec. 17, when he left a so-called “trap house” where drugs were being kept and distributed in Stanley Holmes, according to an intercepted call between Mykal Derry and Kamal Allen, who is also charged in the complaint.
Derry tells Allen that both Mack and Terry Davis were “tucked up” — meaning guns were tucked in their waistbands — when they left the house on Rosemont Place, and that Mack was “talking that gangster (stuff) ... like he was going to get at the squally (a term for police), and now he leaking (bleeding).”
The two then laugh, and Derry then talks about how this has “(expletive) up my trap spot” and the group lost two guns — Mack’s and Davis’.
Davis, along with Mack’s 19-year-old brother, Raymond, are also charged in the case.
Mykal Derry worked to distance himself from the violence, the complaint says, instead having others deal out punishments.
He shows pride in talking about his brother Malik’s attitude after rival James is killed, saying he acted like it was nothing.
The next day, he takes his brother to the Motor Vehicle Commission in Egg Harbor Township to get him identification so they can go to a shooting range in Lakewood, according to a telephone conversation Mykal had with pregnant girlfriend Kimberly Spellman, who also is charged.
“He don’t need to go, look like everybody else do,” she tells Derry, indicating she knows about the previous day’s shooting.
“Got my young boy on his (stuff), you heard,” he replies.
“That is funny as hell,” the woman replies. “He don’t need to go.”
The brothers never made it to the range. Instead, they were arrested at the MVC and remain jailed.
Of those arrested, 25 are Atlantic City residents, with others from Pleasantville, Mays Landing, Galloway, Egg Harbor Township, Absecon, Millville and Collings Lakes. Alleged drug suppliers Mark Frye, 32, and Maurice Thomas, 31, live in Paterson.
With the gang now fractured, things should be safer in Stanley Holmes, what the Housing Authority called the city’s “most troubled” project, officials said.
Fishman acknowledged there are other gangs in the city — such as the “800 Blok” that is mainly in the city’s Back Maryland section, but he said this combination of several agencies shows that there is a “very, very strong commitment” to keeping the city safe.
“I applaud the level of cooperation between the FBI and ACPD,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said in a statement emailed to The Press of Atlantic City. “Certainly, this effort should help create a better environment for our neighborhoods.”
“Hopefully, God willing, it will,” said resident Maria Rivera, who expressed relief when told about the arrests. “There’s too much death going on.”
She stood not far from the memorial to Derreck Mack, which was also the spot where a 19-year-old man was shot in broad daylight Saturday. He remains hospitalized.
“Maybe it will stop half the stuff that’s going on around here,” Tyara Butler said.
Another woman, standing on a stairway talking with several others, yelled out some advice.
“It’s not safe around here,” she said. “Go home. Get as far away from here as possible, and never come back.”
But that is not how things should be, Fishman said.
“All residents deserve to have their neighborhood be a safe place to walk and to raise their families,” he said.
“This operation has been an excellent example of how cooperating law enforcement can take down a criminal organization and make our community safer,” acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said. “In Atlantic County, we will continue to work with all our available law enforcement agencies to take down those criminal groups that remain or those that might spring up to replace this one.”
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Staff writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report.