“Not too much talkin’ bro.”
Mykal Derry sent that text about a half-hour after an alleged drug-dealing rival had been killed in Atlantic City.
“I know,” brother Malik Derry, 21, replied.
Tyquinn James, 25, was dead. And, according to state criminal charges, Malik Derry pulled the trigger.
Now, his older brother was warning him to lay low.
But Mykal Derry, 32, also known as Koose, didn’t follow his own advice — and was caught talking on the phone or texting more than 20,000 times by authorities, an investigator wrote in a criminal complaint charging 34 alleged members and associates of the Dirty Blok gang with heroin distribution.
* * *
The teams of law enforcement led by the FBI were quiet about their plans as things began setting up before daybreak Tuesday morning. Those working the case were sworn to secrecy, with even local police on patrol unaware of what was about to take place. Those listening in on the local scanner feed would have heard nothing on the public channel.
By 3:30 a.m., more than 300 officers from federal, state and local agencies simultaneously descended upon several homes in Atlantic City, Pleasantville and even Cumberland County. Months of intercepted communications and undercover drug deals had led to warrants for 28 alleged members of what is described as Atlantic City’s most successful — and most dangerous — drug-trafficking organization.
Three were not found. An additional six already were jailed in other cases, including Mykal and Malik Derry, charged with murder.
* * *
“Koose” was the alleged leader of the group that ruled Atlantic City’s drug trade from Stanley Holmes Village, described by the head of the Housing Authority as its most troubled neighborhood. Police respond to calls there at least once a day. But even neighbors used to that took notice as the pre-dawn raid got under way.
The 225-page criminal complaint outlines its reach and its organization, with wire taps giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the drug-trafficking organization and the management style of Mykal Derry, who mentored those under him on how to maximize profits, offer a quality product and avoid detection.
But keeping quiet proved difficult even for Mykal Derry, intercepted calls and texts show. Especially right after James’ killing.
“Iz he man dwn,” Derry texts at 7:57 p.m. Feb. 10, about 20 minutes after police arrived at the scene of the shooting on the 1300 block of Adriatic Avenue.
“I’m tryna get my scanner to work now,” replies co-defendant Shaamel Spencer, trying to hear if police transmissions can confirm
Derry then says how James was staring at him before being shot.
Spencer replies: “haha … erase text too.”
“First homicide of da year, head shot …” pregnant girlfriend Kimberly Spellman texts Mykal about news coverage of the killing.
“He gud, he acting like its nuthn,” Derry texts back about his younger brother, also known as Leek.
He planned to take his brother to the Motor Vehicle Commission in Egg Harbor Township to get a photo identification to go to the Shore Shot indoor shooting range in Lakewood, which forms there show Mykal had gone before.
Instead, they were both arrested in front of other customers waiting in line for things such as license renewals.
Investigators had been listening in on the plans.
* * *
Beginning in January 2011, multiple FBI Atlantic City confidential sources made controlled buys from numerous dealers identified as Dirty Blok members.
Bags of heroin could be more than $10 each, but buyers got deals depending on their relationship or how much they purchased, the sales showed.
Bundles — or 10 bags — were $60 to $100, with five bundles, or “a brick,” going for as little as $180.
Sometimes bricks would be a bag or so short, although the investigators weren’t sure if that was oversight or intentional.
Arrests sometimes helped gain access to cell phone numbers, and those of others in the organization.
During several days in October and November, U.S. District Judges Joseph Irenas and Jerome Simandle authorized the FBI to intercept wire and electronic communications on several different phone numbers.
* * *
Mykal Derry often discussed his brother in these taped conversations, saying how he tried to push Leek toward dealing and away from the violent end of business.
But, it didn’t seem that was where Leek excelled.
“How much bread you got?” Mykal asks in a Jan. 27 phone call, seeing how his younger brother was doing in sales.
“Don’t be checkin’ on me,” he replies. “Come on, bro, we don’t do that. What’s up?”
“What do you mean, ‘What’s up?’ bro?” Mykal says. “Like … you takin’ long man. You gotta hustle, bro.”
Malik then complains about selling on a Sunday.
In earlier documented calls with alleged distributor Saeed Zaffa, it’s agreed that Malik doesn’t have much success at dealing.
Mykal then says that if he wasn’t making so much money at drug trafficking, he would focus on violence, too.
But, Mykal Derry apparently had a knack his brother didn’t. He started out as a mid-level drug dealer, but his sales prowess and ability to acquire heroin moved him up quickly.
A little too quickly, for fellow leader Tyrone Ellis.
“Rome” at one point planned to kill Derry, who he said had gone straight to Ellis’ heroin suppliers in Paterson.
Mykal was involved in just about every aspect of the business, according to the hundreds of mention in the complaint.
He advises the younger members to keep their emotions in check, although he is known to lose his temper at times.
“Hell yeah I punched her in her face and I smacked her,” Derry says in one phone conversation, telling someone how he hit pregnant girlfriend Spellman. “I wasn’t (expletive) with that (expletive) ’cause she talked too much, and played mad different sides.”
He also saw himself as a mentor for the younger gang members, telling them how to save and pool their profits so they could buy more heroin at lower prices.
* * *
While the FBI was listening in on the drug enterprise, Atlantic City police were conducting their own investigations.
On Nov. 15, they overlapped when an Atlantic City Vice officer working undercover bought a bundle of heroin — 50 bags — from Kareem Young, identified as a Dirty Blok dealer.
“Yo, I got the best dope in town,” Young says.
* * *
Mykal Derry was big on quality. There were more than 27 stamps — or brands — identified during the investigation, with names like Total Recall, Die Hard, Dark Knight and Uptown.
He stopped using one supplier who got bad reviews from his customers.
“This not the same (stuff) at all,” one text said. “Its all (expletive) muddy.”
The person then texted a few minutes later: “The (stuff) I just got doesn’t dissolve. Lol it doesn’t even mix.”
Testers were used to make sure the product was good, with different ratings depending upon whether the heroin was snorted or injected.
“They lovin’ the Total, you heard,” Ellis tells Mykal Derry in one phone call.
“Oh, the Total bringing it back?” he replies, asking about buyers returning.
“Hell yeah, (expletive) that Uptown (stuff),” Ellis says.
* * *
Atlantic City police kept up their investigations. On Feb. 4, Young was among 21 arrested in a drug sweep.
Investigators also used their information to make arrests during the months-long investigation, picking up “facilitator” Rashada Allen with a gun the complaint alleges Mykal Derry had purchased and was planning to pick up. Allen also allegedly lived with her mother while allowing the gang to use her Stanley Holmes apartment.
* * *
“Man, I just lost $1,800, man,” Derry tells a friend in one intercepted conversation. “Shada (Allen) got booked, you heard?”
He then says she was found with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun that she was bringing to him. So he’s out that money, along with the bail.
“I’m gonna rape that (expletive) when she get out, dog,” he says in an Oct. 9, 2012 phone call, the complaint says.
But in a text to Allen later that night, Mykal tells her, “I love you cuz dnt even worry ... Allah iz with us.”
Derry had his own bail bondsman, who allegedly worked mainly for drugs.
Identified only as PJL of Rapid Bail Bonds in Atlantic City, he may have also done more than set up payments to free members.
When getting one female associate out of jail, he tells Derry things depend on “if somebody can make a (expletive) pay stub for her. She ain’t work.”
He then adds: “But I didn’t tell you to do that.”
Women were mainly used to buy things and provide their apartments as places to store and distribute drugs, and sometimes hide things such as a ballistics vest and weapons.
He also kept rivals in check, even ordering shootings and killings, the charges allege. Although, he would be careful to keep himself away from the violence.
Then, the day after James’ killing, both he and his brother were arrested.
At their first appearance, Malik Derry attempted to clear his older brother and alleged gang leader.
“I have an affidavit I wrote,” he told the judge, holding up a folded piece of lined, yellow paper.
The judge tells him that is not for this day, and to tell his lawyer, when he gets one.
“I was just letting him go,” the younger Derry explained. “He’s got nothing to do with nothing.”
Beside him, his brother nodded his head, but said nothing.
“Not too much talkin’ bro.”
Advice the complaint seems to show Mykal Derry didn’t always take.
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