A Camden man pleaded guilty yesterday to leading a violent heroin ring and admitted he had helped kill a Rutgers University-Camden student near campus in 2001.
Federal authorities described the plea by Enrique “Rick” Perez, 37, as a milestone in their effort to battle Camden’s drug problems by targeting its most violent operators. The same federal-state task force also dismantled the better-known “J.R.” Rivera drug ring a few years ago. Perez, whose organization has been linked to three murders, pleaded guilty to drug-conspiracy and weapons charges. He faces 10 years to life when sentenced April 16 by U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kuglar.
Michael J. Diamondstein, a Cherry Hill lawyer who defended Perez, declined to comment after the hearing.
During the 1990s, Perez was a member of the Sons of Malcolm X, a street gang that required prospective members to commit murder, officials said. Perez was convicted of stat drug and gun charges in 1996 and served two years in prison.
“Upon his release from prison, Mr. Perez began a new,” Deputy U.S. Attorney Lee Solomon said.
Authorities say Perez controlled a major crack-cocaine and heroin organization that netted about $35,000 a week from street-level sales. The group stamped its heroin with brand names such as Scarface, El Nino and Payback to distinguish it from heroin sold elsewhere in Camden, officials said.
Perez said in court yesterday that he -with two Camden men at this side, Bernard Murray, 27, and Allen Resto, 24 -had controlled the flow of heroin and cocaine in two neighborhoods. One in near Fifth and Grant streets, the other around Ninth and Cedar Streets.
Perez, Murray an Resto were among 12 Camden individuals arrested by federal officials in March and charged with participating in a drug conspiracy.
Perez also admitted in court that his organization had been responsible for at least three murders, including the February 2001 death of Hiram Rosa, 22, a Rutgers-Camden student.
Perez said he had known Rosa as “the Rutgers kid”, someone friendly with a rival drug ring. According to Perez, he joined Resto and Murray in a plot to kill Rosa.
Perez said he and Resto had shot Rosa near Second and Linden Streets just months before the senior was scheduled to graduate. The killing chilled the campus and drew publicity to student-safety concerns in the area.
Perez also admitted he helped plan the murder of Kenneth Allen, 30, of Camden, in March 2001 “to keep him from robbing” the Perez organization, And Perez said that he had not been directly involved in the October 2001 murder of Troy James, also of Camden, but that Murray and Resto told him they killed James.
Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said yesterday that state “charges will be forthcoming in the homicides.” He declined to elaborate.
Murray and Resto are awaiting trial in the drug conspiracy with four codefendants: Lorenzo Hardwick, 37; Ramon Saldana, 41; Jose Rodriquez, 22; and David Lopez, 28.
Five codefendants have pleaded guilty to drug and weapons charges: Carlos Hernandez, 30; Joseph LaCourt, 36; Arnaldo Gomez, 27; Anthony Perez, 22 and Linda Castner, 31.
By: Staff Writer