Indictment stems from investigation led by New Jersey State Police called “Operation Maple Empire”

TRENTON, NJ: Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a state grand jury today indicted the alleged leader and numerous other members of a drug network that was distributing large quantities of heroin and cocaine in Trenton, N.J. The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau today obtained a 55-count indictment charging 19 defendants.

The indictment stems from “Operation Maple Empire,” an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Gangs & Organized Crime Central Unit, Trenton Police Department, FBI, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force, Ewing Police Department, Hamilton Police Department, Bucks County (Pa.) Prosecutor’s Office and Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. The State Police arrested most of the defendants in May. More than 500 bricks of heroin – which equals more than 25,000 doses of heroin – were seized in the investigation, along with two-thirds of a kilo of cocaine, and three handguns.

The following four defendants face first-degree charges:

  • Shawn Davis, 42, of Trenton, the alleged leader of the drug ring, faces first-degree charges of leader of a narcotics trafficking network, promoting organized street crime, possession of heroin with intent to distribute, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
  • Tracy Edwards, 24, of Trenton, allegedly was one of the primary drug distributers under Davis. He is charged with first-degree distribution of heroin and second-degree gun charges.
  • Tamica Freeman, 37, of Trenton, was driving with Davis when the two were stopped by the State Police and arrested on May 10 allegedly with 358 bricks of heroin and $8,000 cash in the vehicle. She is charged with first-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
  • William Holzendorf, 48, of Trenton, is charged with first-degree possession of a handgun for possessing a semi-automatic pistol as a felon with a prior conviction for first-degree carjacking.

The leader charge carries a sentence of life in prison, including 25 years without parole, and promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of up to 30 years, consecutive to the sentence for any underlying crime. Davis also faces second-degree charges of possession of a gun as a convicted felon and possession of a gun while committing a drug offense. Detectives found a handgun and 600 grams of cocaine when they searched his house. Of the other 15 defendants, 13 face second-degree charges of conspiracy and/or distribution or possession of narcotics and two face third-degree drug charges.

“We allege that Davis was a major heroin supplier, as revealed by the 358 bricks of heroin – or nearly 18,000 doses – seized from his car as he returned from a weekly drug run to Newark,” said Attorney General Porrino. “The allegations make clear that Davis was fueling a staggering amount of addiction each week, and by shutting him down, the State Police and their partners undoubtedly saved lives.”

“Through this far-reaching investigation, we were able to indict Davis on leader and promoting organized street crime charges, which could put him behind bars for a very long time,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Targeting the leaders is the best way to dismantle these drug networks, reduce violence and cut off the deadly narcotics coming into our communities.”

“Davis and the members of this alleged ring profited from the illicit drug trade that has infected our communities and torn families apart,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The indictments of these violent gang members represent another step towards preventing these highly addictive and potentially deadly opioids from reaching our neighborhoods.”

It is alleged that Davis went to Newark at least once a week to obtain large quantities of heroin and cocaine, which he supplied to several drug dealers directly under him, including Edwards and Jerome Person, 38, of Trenton, for further distribution to other members of the ring and throughout the City of Trenton. Those individuals allegedly sold heroin directly on behalf of Davis, providing Davis with at least part of the proceeds from their street-level sales. Davis also allegedly made drug sales himself. The drug trafficking ring operated in the area of Maple Avenue in Trenton, among other areas.

The following defendants are charged, along with Davis, Edwards, Holzendorf and Person, with second-degree conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine:

  1. Traitiana Edwards, 28, of Trenton,
  2. Taibika Dawson, 42, of Feasterville, Pa.,
  3. Ricardo Cruz, 43, of Trenton,
  4. Willie Green, 26, of Trenton,
  5. Rush Marzah, 24, of Trenton,
  6. Karl Davis, Jr., 31, of Morrisville, Pa.,
  7. Donovan Vereen, 22, of Trenton,
  8. Brequan Womack, 29, of Trenton, and
  9. Jaquan Bland, 26, of Trenton.

Each of those defendants, with the exception of Green and Karl Davis, Jr., also face second-degree and/or third-degree drug distribution or drug possession charges.

The following three defendants face second-degree counts of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, among other charges. They were arrested at an address on Ardmore Avenue where a garage is located that allegedly was used by the ring as a stash house:

  • Prince Jones, 44, of Trenton,
  • Angelica Mendez, 26, of Trenton, and
  • Charlene Rodriguez, 27, of Trenton.

The following two remaining defendants face 3rd degree heroin charges:

  • George Martz, 31, of Freehold, N.J., and
  • Robert Minelli, 59, of Ewing, N.J.

Deputy Attorney General Michael Klein presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Erik Daab and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. The lead detectives were Detective Douglas Muraglia of the New Jersey State Police Gangs & Organized Crime Central Unit and Detective Katherine Cox of the Trenton Police Department. The New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section assisted in the investigation.

Attorney General Porrino thanked the following law enforcement agencies and all of their members who assisted the New Jersey State Police in Operation Maple Empire

  • Trenton Police Department
  • FBI
  • Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
  • U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF)
  • U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force
  • Ewing Police Department
  • Hamilton Police Department
  • Bucks County (Pa.) Prosecutor’s Office
  • Mercer County Sheriff’s Office

The charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network carries a sentence of life in state prison, including 25 years of parole ineligibility, and a criminal fine of up to $750,000. The charge of promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, consecutive to the sentence for any underlying crime, and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree narcotics charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. The first-degree narcotics distribution charge carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed. The first-degree possession of a handgun charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years, with a period of parole ineligibility equal to one-half of the sentence imposed. The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The charge of second-degree possession of a gun by a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of five years of parole ineligibility. The third-degree drug charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and maximum fines of $35,000 for possession or $75,000 for distribution.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.