• Lynda Cohen

Alleged Atlantic City drug-ring leader detained, main dealer released

Updated: May 19

An Atlantic City woman accused of using the home she shared with her young children to store and deal drugs for a heroin-trafficking ring was released on house arrest Tuesday. Tieyesha Tucker, 25, hid the drugs in her children’s toys and even at her grandmother’s home across the street, Assistant U.S. Attorney Martha Nye told the judge Tuesday in Camden Federal Court. Her arrest came two weeks after giving birth to her third child. Tucker is one of four defendants in the 22-person case who has been released pending trial. Two others remain at large. The alleged leader of the enterprise was 29-year-old Khalif Toombs, a former Atlantic City High School basketball star the government says turned drug kingpin. “This defendant is the reason we are here,” Nye said when it was Toombs’ turn before the judge. “He organized the activities of every other person you have seen before you.” In 2½ years, heroin with stamps allegedly sold by the group was responsible for 48 deaths and 84 nonfatal overdoses, Nye pointed out to U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio. Donio ordered Toombs detained, convinced by the fact that the new allegations came while he had two separate cases pending involving drugs and, in one case, a gun. The judge seemed unmoved by defense attorney Jerome Ballarotto’s argument that Toombs has not yet been found guilty in any of his three pending cases. “Why don’t we just skip the trial and go straight to the execution?” a frustrated Ballarotto asked, noting his client is “a college-educated basketball player.”

Toombs worked hard to keep the drugs away from him, Nye said. Tucker was his main facilitator, having the drugs delivered to her Adams Court home where she lived with her children, ages 5 and 1. She continued working even while pregnant. Deliveries would come in boxes sometimes 900 bricks at a time, according to the information released in the case. That translates to at least 45,000 bags of heroin, a value of about $225,000. She would take the orders and fill them daily, sometimes 10 sales a day, Nye said. On Tuesday, Tucker was allowed to return to that home, under the watch of the two men who fathered her children. “It’s a close call,” Donio told Tucker in allowing her release. “You are very fortunate that you have two individuals that are prepared to be third-party custodians.” That title means they are responsible for Tucker, and are sworn to report any wrongdoing. They also signed a $100,000 bond that would have to be paid if she disappears. Rakim Frasier, the father of her two older children, and Christopher Daniels, the baby’s father, agreed to live in the home with Tucker, making sure she follows the strict conditions of her release. Nye was not happy with the decision, saying that neither man was credible on the stand. Frasier, who said he lived in the Adams Court home since February, testified that he never saw any drugs there and never saw Tucker on the phone or going outside. Daniels, who often came to see his baby daughter and would sometimes stay overnight, also said he never saw any of that activity. But with no criminal record and no restrictions by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Donio said she would allow the release. “You know how people get one chance?” Donio asked Tucker. “This is your chance.” Ventnor’s Joseph Aversa is still hoping he will get his chance. The alleged dealer was mainly using the drugs provided to him to feed his own habit, attorney Anne Singer said. She told the judge he was using sometimes 50 bags of heroin a day. “100,” Aversa corrected her. Singer said there was a bed at an in-patient facility that often deals with those in federal cases where he could get the treatment he needs, including what appears to be still ongoing detox. But since there was no one in court for Aversa who would be able to transport him, Donio said she would postpone the hearing until next week. James Blackwell, 54, also suffers from a serious drug problem, his attorney said. But he is waiting for confirmation of a bed in a facility before arguing for release. Several attorneys for the defendants decided not to contest detention, while leaving open the option that they can do it at a later date when they have gotten to see more of the evidence in the case. Because of the extensive investigation that includes wiretaps, texts, videos and photos, the sides have all agreed that the time between now through Sept. 27 will not count toward the limits required under the Speedy Trial Act.

Twenty-two people charged in deadly Atlantic City drug-trafficking ring

Nearly two dozen people have been charged in a heroin-trafficking ring out of Atlantic City, allegedly led by a former local basketball star, … Read more


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