|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that four members of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang were sentenced to prison today on racketeering charges in connection with a murder in Vineland in 2006.
These four defendants were sentenced to the following prison terms by Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein in Cumberland County:
- Almeen Palmer, 36, of Atlantic City, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
- Steven Armstead, 33, of Millville, was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
- Quason Blake, 25, of Atlantic City, was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
- Kelsey Smith, 26, of Atlantic City, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.
All of the defendants pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering on Aug. 23, admitting that they were members of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang. All of them also admitted that they participated in the murder of Leroy Lindsay as members of the gang. Lindsay, 23, was shot in the chest on January 23, 2006 in an apartment on South 7th Street in Vineland. Each defendant admitted that he participated in an attempt to “discipline” Lindsay for disrespecting another member of the Nine Trey Gangsters, and that the resulting altercation led to Lindsay being shot and killed.
Deputy Attorneys General Andrew B. Johns and Andrew Taff took the guilty pleas and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. The four men were charged in “Operation Nine Connect,” a joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice.
“We have secured lengthy prison sentences for 48 members of this violent gang as a result of Operation Nine Connect, including these four men, who admitted they gunned down Leroy Lindsay for the simple reason that he showed disrespect to one of the Nine Trey Gangsters,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By taking these vicious criminals off the street, we are making our communities safer.”
“The Nine Trey Gangsters were an especially dangerous gang because of their propensity to use guns to defend their drug turf, retaliate against rival gang members, and enforce internal discipline,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Working with the New Jersey State Police and our other partners in Operation Nine Connect, we dismantled this violent gang from top to bottom.”
A total of 48 defendants were indicted in June 2007 as a result of Operation Nine Connect. The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau now has secured guilty pleas or trial convictions for all of the defendants named in the indictment. One leader of the gang, Michael Smart, 31, of Irvington, was tried in January 2009, convicted and sentenced to 70 years in state prison, including 46 years of parole ineligibility. The other defendants received or face sentences ranging from five to 16 years in state prison.
The Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police were assisted in Operation Nine Connect by the Newark Police Department, the Irvington Police Department, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Atlantic City Police Department and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office initially handled the Lindsey homicide and provided extensive assistance to the Division of Criminal Justice.