AFRO-LINEAL ORGANIZED CRIME – State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation 1989 Report
AFRICAN-AMERICANS

African-American organized crime in New Jersey has, for years, been comprised mostly of regional gangs, some with ties to groups such as La Cosa Nostra and some independent. Despite their regional nature, the gangs are nonetheless dangerous and violent.

The late Roland"Pops" Bartlett was a major African- American organized crime figure in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Bartlett, who was a drug runner for the "Black Mafia" in the 1960's, operated an extensive heroin distribution network in North Philadelphia from 1980 until his federal indictment in March, 1987. His organization expanded into cocaine distributionin its later years.

Known as "The Family," Bartlett's group was estimated to consist of 60 members and associates, 35 of whom were indicted with him in 1987. Much of the group's income was invested in the corporate entities Bartlett Enterprises, Inc. and Domino Records, Inc. Among the group's known assets were a 60-acre retreat in the Pocono Mountains; five houses, two lots and a night-club in Philadelphia; a $750,000 home in Cherry Hill; 32 acres in Georgia and several race horses.

Although their drug territory was North Philadelphia, Bartlett group members and associates sold heroin and cocaine to street operatives in Camden and Burlington Counties in New Jersey. It was estimated that the Bartlett organized crime group grossed close to $7 million dollars per year during its life-span of more than six years dealing drugs. Roland Bartlett died in federal prison on January 15, 1990.

In March, 1989, an operation similar to the Bartlett organization was discovered in the New Brunswick area. On July 28, 1989, members of the Isaac Wright group were arrested by the Somerset and Middlesex County prosecutor's offices and the police departments of New Brunswick, Edison and Franklin Township. Wright, the 27-year-old owner of the New York City-based company Express Records, was arrested in Edison, along with 10 members of his drug distribution network. It was estimated that the Wright group grossed approximately $20 million dollars a year from cocaine trafficking in Essex, Somerset and Middlesex Counties. Also arrested with Wright was his wife, Sun- shine, who is a recording artist for his record company, and Wright's principal cocaine supplier, a Dominican named Roberto Alexander of Passaic. The cocaine seized at the time of Wright's arrest had an estimated street value of $480,000.

Between July, 1987, and November, 1989, the Pretlow brothers – Bilal, Robert and Thomas – operated a cocaine distribution network in Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway and Newark. An undercover investigation by local and State Police led to numerous arrests of members of this network in November, 1988, for possession and sale of cocaine. Unknown at the time was that many of those arrested were part of an African- American organized crime group led by the Pretlow brothers. The group was initially divided into two drug distribution networks, one headed by Bilal Pretlow, who was 18 years old at the time, and the other by his 21-year-year-old brother, Robert. Continuing investigation by Elizabeth Police revealed that the two networks had merged into one group under the name "E'Port Posse/Phase II," with Bilal Pretlow as the leader. A high school dropout, Bilal Pretlow once sold marijuana on the streets of Elizabeth for Jamaican distributors, and in 1987 was able to take over their drug territory. The Pretlow group has a reputation for violence. Between November, 1988, and November, 1989, the group is believed to have been responsible for at least seven murders and one attempted murder. The group's drug dealing is estimated to have grossed between $3.5 million and $4 million during that same period. Bilal Pretlow continued to act as supervisor, even while in Union County Jail, by having unlimited access to a telephone and by having his subordinates call-forward his calls to public telephones and designated private residences. A total of 31 members were arrested in November, 1989, and charged with various narcotics violations. Law enforcement officials believe that at least 20 to 30 additional members of the group, mostly juveniles, escaped detection and arrest.

Historically, many ardent supporters of illegal numbers gambling were in the African-American community. Over the decades, the illegal lotteries and numbers games were actually controlled by the LCN, and black operatives worked within the framework established by them. Today, that control has begun to diminish in some areas of New Jersey. In Camden County, for instance, one such African-American numbers group has been operating independently for several years under the control of Leonard A. Jones. This group also conducts its illegal gambling in parts of Gloucester and Burlington Counties and is estimated to net nearly $1 million dollars per year.

In northern New Jersey, on the other hand, African- American illegal gambling operatives work with the LCN. For example, Louis H. Tyler of Jersey City runs a gambling and narcotics operation in conjunction with the Genovese/Gigante LCN family. In Trenton, a person known as Wayne Pack conducts an illegal lottery which lays off to Gambino/Gotti LCN associate Anthony "Pushy" Pulcinello. Several other African-American gambling operations exist in New Jersey but their status – either independent or affiliated with another organized crime group – has not been determined.

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