Eight Bridgeport area drug traffickers responsible for local violence indicted

BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT – As part of an ongoing investigation into gang-related drug trafficking and related violence in Bridgeport, a federal grand jury in New Haven has returned a superseding indictment charging eight Bridgeport gang members with conspiring to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity, including drug trafficking and multiple attempted murders.

Today’s announcement was made by John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; Joseph T. Corradino, State’s Attorney for the Fairfield Judicial District; Bridgeport Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia; David Sundberg, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Kelly D. Brady, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division; and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England.

The eight-count superseding indictment, which was returned on February 16 and unsealed today, charges

MARQUIS ISREAL, a.k.a. “Garf,” 24
ASANTE GAINES, a.k.a. “Santi,” 24
DESTINE CALDERON, 26
DIOMIE BLACKWELL, a.k.a. “Yamo,” 24
LAHEEM JONES, a.k.a. “Heemie,” 25
TYIESE WARREN, a.k.a. “Loose Screw,” 20
JACQUON BENEJAN, a.k.a. “Blick,” 19
UNDREA KIRKLAND, a.k.a. “Spooda,” 24

Benejan was arrested on February 19.  He appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah A.L. Merriam via videoconference and was ordered detained.  The other defendants were previously charged with federal offenses and are detained pending trial.

As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, in an effort to address escalating violence in Bridgeport, the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals, and Bridgeport Police are actively investigating multiple Bridgeport-based groups whose members are involved in narcotics trafficking, murder and other acts of violence.  Gaines, Calderon, Blackwell, Jones, Benejan and Kirkland are members of the “Greene Homes Boyz,” (“GHB/Hotz”), based in the Charles F. Greene Homes Housing Complex in Bridgeport’s North End.  Isreal and Warren are members of the “Original North End” (“O.N.E.”), a Bridgeport gang whose members have been allies with GHB/Hotz members since approximately 2017.  GHB/Hotz and O.N.E. have been aligned against rival groups in Bridgeport, including the East End, East Side and PT Barnum gangs, as well as 150, which is a is a geographic gang based on the West Side of Bridgeport

The indictment alleges that GHB/Hotz members and associates distributed heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana and Percocet pills; committed numerous acts of violence against rival gang members and other individuals, and celebrated their criminal conduct on social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube.  GHB/Hotz members and associates also committed acts of intimidation and made threats to deter potential witnesses to their crimes and to protect gang members and associates from detection and prosecution by law enforcement authorities.

Among the violent acts committed by the defendants, the indictment alleges that:

  • On May 22, 2015, Kirkland shot and attempted to kill “KJ,” a member or associate of the 150 gang;
  • On February 7, 2018, Benejan and Blackwell shot and attempted to kill “MJ,” a member or associate of the 150 gang;
  • On February 27, 2018, Kirkland shot and attempted to kill “TH,” a member or associate of the East End gang;
  • On October 4, 2018, Kirkland and Benejan shot and attempted to kill “MS,” a member or associate of the East End gang;
  • January 27, 2020, Gaines, Calderon, Blackwell, Jones, Isreal and Warren shot and attempted to kill members and associates of the East End gang.

As to the January 27, 2020, shooting, at 12:11 p.m. on that date, Bridgeport Police responded to the area of 172 Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport after a Shot Spotter activation detected approximately 20 shots being fired in front of the state courthouse located there.  Upon arrival, investigators discovered that four victims had been shot while sitting inside a black Chevrolet Impala.  The victims’ vehicle had approximately 23 entry bullet holes in the driver’s side and windshield area.

The indictment charges Gaines, Calderon, Blackwell, Jones, Benejan and Kirkland with one count of conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

In addition, Gaines, Calderon, Blackwell, Jones, Isreal and Warren are charged with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, attempted murder/aiding and abetting in assault with a dangerous weapon, and attempted murder, all in violation of the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (“VCAR”) statute.  The assault offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and the attempted offenses carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.  The six defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit murder/conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon.  The conspiracy to commit murder offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and the conspiracy to commit assault offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of three years.

The indictment also charges Isreal with one count of using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, an offense that carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least 10 years.  He is also charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine base (“crack”) and fentanyl, and one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.  Each of the drug offenses carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

Finally, the indictment charges Benejan with one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least five years.

U.S. Attorney Durham noted that, in the past year, 22 members of the GHB/Hotz, O.N.E. and East End gangs have been charged with federal offenses as a result of this ongoing investigation.

U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s Safe Streets and Violent Crimes Task Forces, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, Bridgeport Police Department, Connecticut State Police and the Bridgeport State’s Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory and the Waterbury Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Kale, Jocelyn Courtney Kaoutzanis, Peter D. Markle and Karen L. Peck.

This prosecution is a part of the Justice’s Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), Project Longevity and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) programs.

PSN is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Longevity is a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun violence in Connecticut’s major cities.  Through Project Longevity, community members and law enforcement directly engage with members of groups that are prone to commit violence and deliver a community message against violence, a law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence and an offer of help for those who want it.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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