A group of South Jersey residents, including a Cherry Hill woman who allegedly ran the ring's operations out of New Jersey, were among 15 people indicted by a state grand jury on charges related to a Jamaica-based international cocaine ring, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced Friday.
Marsha Bernard, 28, of Cherry Hill, Sidonie S. McLeod, 28, of Cherry Hill, James C. McBride, 41, of Mount Laurel, Angel R. Rivera, 33, of Vineland, and Juan M. Cortez 41, of Vineland, were each indicted on charges of first-degree conspiracy and first-degree distribution of cocaine; McLeod and Bernard additionally face first-degree money laundering charges and Rivera faces a charge of second-degree possession of a weapon as a convicted felon.
Bernard was the highest-level local player in the drug ring, authorities said, working closely with ringleader Andrew Davis, 34, of Kingston, Jamaica—a dancehall DJ in his native country who also goes by “Flippa Mafia”—and his brother, Kemar Davis, 22, of Hollywood, CA, to move large amounts of drugs between Jamaica, California and New Jersey.
The Davis brothers were indicted on the most serious charges, including leading a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree crime carrying a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, and first-degree counts of conspiracy, distribution of cocaine and money laundering, with each count carrying a possible 10- to 20-year prison sentence.
State officials called the indictments a victory in the ongoing fight to keep drugs out of New Jersey, and said they'd managed to grab all the key players in this particular drug operation.
“We put a stop shipment on this international cocaine ring through this long-term investigation involving the cooperative work of all levels of law enforcement,” Hoffman said in a statement. “By interdicting these major suppliers, we are substantially reducing the quantity of narcotics reaching New Jersey’s streets and protecting our residents from the violence that invariably accompanies drug dealing.”
The indictments also included Shellyann A. Brown, 34, of Trenton, and Hioka N. Myrie, 33, of Philadelphia, as well as several unnamed defendants who Hoffman said are still fugitives.
A two-year investigation into the ring focused on the Davis brothers, authorities said, who shipped drugs from California to Bernard, who then dealt with lower-level drug traffickers who bought roughly a kilogram of cocaine at a time.
Bernard handled the proceeds from those sales and sent them on to Kemar and Andrew Davis, authorities said.
The investigation into Bernard and others connected with the ring started in March 2011, authorities said, when detectives and agents from the Camden High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, along with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, seized eight kilograms of cocaine split into two packages at a mail facility in Marlton, which they said was destined for Bernard and Andrew Davis.
Over the next two years, DEA agents and State Police went on to document meetings between Bernard and others, including McLeod, which authorities said were set up to handle moving multiple kilograms of cocaine.
The two Vineland residents, Rivera and Cortez, were arrested on March 11, 2013, after Bernard delivered a kilogram of cocaine to them in Cherry Hill, authorities said.
Four days later, Bernard and three others, including McLeod, were arrested when State Police detectives and DEA agents executed a series of search and arrest warrants in Cherry Hill and Mount Laurel, authorities said, just as another large shipment of cocaine was arriving from California.
That same day, authorities arrested Kemar Davis in Los Angeles.
In total, detectives recovered more than 26 kilograms of cocaine, worth approximately $780,000, two handguns, and more than $600,000 in cash; while authorities said that was a significant bust, it only represented a small amount of the drugs brought into the United States by the Davis brothers' organization.
Andrew Davis, who had been in Jamaica since leaving the United States in 2012, was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, and he was extradited to New Jersey on Oct. 8.
“The dismantlement of this international drug trafficking organization is a great success for law enforcement, and our communities are safer as a result of this investigation,” said Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division. “The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue drug violators wherever the investigation leads us.”