‘Another level of disgust:’ Feds say gang used Newark rec center in drug operation

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Federal authorities have charged 12 people with running a drug ring partly out of a Newark recreation center where three of them worked.

The group included reputed members of the G-Shine set of the Bloods street gang and is alleged to have sold heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine.

Three Newark city employees allegedly used the Rotunda Recreation Center to receive and store drugs. They have been suspended by the city.

“It's outrageous. It's outrageous. You take these jobs, you have a responsibility to care for the children and the community,” says US Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Authorities said the three were seasonal employees and at least one had a prior drug record.

“It sickens you that you see people that were given a job on a seasonal basis, that maybe made a mistake in the past and given the past had come to a job and engaged in criminal activity,” says Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Wednesday that under city policy, the employees weren't subjected to criminal background checks because they were part-time workers. Baraka said he plans to change that policy going forward.

“That somebody would use the cover of their job to do this is a whole another level of disgust,” Baraka said.

The mayor said that he was beyond angry when he learned of the accusations Wednesday. He says that part of his anger was that the city’s website erroneously listed alleged drug supplier Arthur Hardy as the rec center’s director.

“He was never the director of anything. He was a part-time employee, a recreational aide…I double-checked it to make sure,” Baraka said.

There's no indication children at the rec center were aware of the drug activity, but, “We do believe there's violence related to some of this gang activity. It's not something I can discuss at this time,” Carpenito says.

Authorities say their investigation used court-ordered wiretaps to intercept phone calls and text messages. The investigation is ongoing.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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