A six-month investigation by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has resulted in the arrest of 18 suspects and the seizure of some 1,000 grams of heroin, 1,000 grams of methamphetamine, 15 pounds of marijuana, 11 guns, six vehicles and more than $22,000 in cash.
The multi-jurisdictional investigation of narcotics distribution and violent crime was called “Operation Eight-Ball,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri.
“Operation Eight-Ball was an enormous investigative endeavor and as a result, many violent offenders have been taken off of the street,” said Onofri. “I cannot thank our many law enforcement partners enough for their dedication and assistance in providing safer neighborhoods for the residents of Trenton and Mercer County.”
Trenton residents arrested were: Deshawn Abner, 31, (numerous narcotic and weapons-related offenses); Daishawn Dickerson, 30, (numerous narcotic-related offenses); Aziz Stroman, 31, (numerous narcotic and weapons-related offenses); Zaire Jones, 20, (conspiracy); Vincent Bowman, 20, (conspiracy); Kashawn Batts, 33, (numerous weapons-related offenses); Jaquane Leonard, 32, (numerous weapons-related offenses); Joseph Kaite, 19, (homicide, numerous narcotic and weapons offenses); Tabika Hale, 26, (Homicide and weapons offenses); and Prince Attoh, 20, (numerous narcotic-related offenses.)
Also arrested were: Ricardo Moise, 31, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, (numerous narcotic-related offenses); Aniyah Boone, 20, of Bensalem, (numerous narcotic-related offenses); Casimer Phillips, 22, of Newtonville, (numerous narcotic-related offenses); Kevonte Bivens, 23, of Montgomery, Alabama, (numerous narcotic-related offenses); Aleque Williams-Dixon, 21, of Blackwood, (numerous narcotic-related offenses).
In addition, information obtained during Operation Eight-Ball directly linked Tyzir Hamilton, 19, Treizon Thompson, 20, and Darnell Davis, 19, to the murders of William Irizarry and Julius Vargas last August. Arrest warrants for the three defendants were obtained in October 2020 and search warrants were also executed at several locations, which led to the recovery of several weapons.
Onofri said the investigation was established because the number of shootings and homicides in Trenton began increasing at an “alarming rate” in the spring of 2020. As a result, law enforcement “set out to expose trends and connections that might be responsible for triggering the uptick in violence.”
The investigation was called Operation Eight-Ball after the eight-ball logo used by H-Block, a Trenton-based violent criminal street gang responsible for numerous shootings and murders in the city.
Onofri said the initial investigation focused on the alleged drug activities of H-Block. Through informant information, controlled buys, surveillances and intelligence, authorities were able to obtain and execute more than 40 warrants of individuals, vehicles and locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
On Nov. 4, an undercover officer made arrangements to purchase a quantity of heroin from Kaite. After conducting the narcotics transaction with the undercover detective at a gas station on North Olden Avenue in Trenton, detectives attempted to arrest Kaite, however, he fled in his vehicle.
When detectives attempted to stop Kaite, he collided with a police vehicle causing heavy damage to both vehicles. He then attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended after a brief struggle. Also arrested inside the vehicle were Bowman and Jones.
Search warrants related to the investigation were subsequently executed and detectives located 30 bricks of heroin and a shotgun. At an apartment on Beakes Street in Trenton, detectives located evidence related to murder of Derek Colley on Oct. 5 that resulted in homicide charges being filed against Kaite and Hale.
The investigation continued into 2021, and last week, search warrants were executed at locations in Trenton and Ewing, Bristol and Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Prior to the execution of these warrants, surveillance officers followed Abner as he traveled by cab from Bond Street in Trenton to the Extended Stay Motel on Route 1 in West Windsor, where Abner and a second individual, identified as Aziz Stroman, were observed searching a wooded area around the hotel.
After searching the area for about 30 minutes, Abner was seen retrieving a box containing 210 bricks of heroin from the bushes in the hotel parking lot. After retrieving the package, Abner entered the Mercedes that Stroman had arrived in, and the two men departed the area. Arrest teams converged on the area and both Abner and Stroman were eventually detained after attempting to flee.
A search warrant for Stroman’s Mercedes was obtained and detectives located 210 bricks of heroin on the front passenger floor. Both Abner and Stroman were charged with first-degree narcotic offenses.
After Abner and Stroman were taken into custody, detectives contacted officers in Pennsylvania who had Ricardo Moise under observation. Through the investigation, authorities had pinpointed Moise as the supplier of heroin to North Trenton.
At that time, Moise was seen moving items out of his apartment on Beaver Street in Bristol Township, and detectives from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, with assistance from Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Bristol Borough Police Department, arrested him for outstanding warrants as a result of distributing 75 bricks of heroin to an undercover officer in the spring of 2020. Search warrants were subsequently executed at related locations.
“Our law enforcement challenges this year required a coordinated plan, and I’m thankful for the city, county, state, and federal officers who stepped up to make Trenton a safer place to live,” said Trenton Police Director Sheilah A. Coley. “In just this operation alone, their hard work yielded multiple firearms, high-capacity magazines, kilograms of narcotics, and more than 15 arrests, six of which are connected to several homicides. This multi-tiered response awaits any criminal group that seeks to plague our streets with drugs and violence.”
“This investigation makes clear the violence associated with drug trafficking,” said Susan A. Gibson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division. “Those targeted in this investigation brought violence and misery to the residents of Mercer County. Their arrests have made the community safer, and DEA will continue to work with our partners to pursue those who violate the law.”
According to Onofri, the total retail value of the confiscated drugs is $228,000. The heroin is valued at $60,000; the methamphetamine at $100,000; and the marijuana at $68,000.
In addition to the narcotics, authorities also seized 11 guns, six vehicles and approximately $22,000 in cash. Approximately 24 bank accounts in connection to the investigation were frozen and continue to be investigated by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Economic Crime Unit.
Operation Eight-Ball initiated with the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, the Mercer County Homicide Task Force and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Economic Crime Unit.
It received support and resources from 16 additional agencies including: Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations; New Jersey State Police Crime Suppression Central; Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Bucks County District Attorney’s Office; Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office; Ewing Police Department; Hamilton Police Division; Lawrence Police Department; Princeton Township Police Department; Robbinsville Police Department; Trenton Police Department; West Windsor Police Department; Bristol Borough Police Department; and The College of New Jersey Police Department.