Worker who allegedly ran drug ring in rec center recently released from prison

Updated Aug 5, 2019

Awaiting trial on federal drug charges, Rahim Jackson was on house arrest in his Green Brook home when authorities found his girlfriend’s shot and severely burned body in a field -- the result of a robbery attempt gone wrong.

The four men who were later charged with her murder wanted to rob and kidnap Jackson’s girlfriend in an attempt to get access to Jackson, who they thought was a “wealthy drug dealer,” court records show.

Jackson would eventually be sentenced to a decade in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and posses heroin.

Two months after he was released from prison in 2017, Newark hired Jackson to work part-time at one of the city’s recreation centers.

Jackson, now 43, is again facing similar drug charges for his role in what authorities say was a drug trafficking ring that stored narcotics at the Rotunda Recreation and Wellness Center in the city’s Central Ward where he worked.

Twelve people were charged in the alleged drug operation, three of whom were part-time city workers at the rec center: Jackson, Arthur Hardy, 41, and Edward Williams, 51.

“Employees in our rec department, most of them have a background of athletics, basketball, football or any other sports activities that they play,” Mayor Ras Baraka said shortly after the charges were announced. “Unfortunately, they used that as an opportunity to further their criminal activity.”

Jackson and Hardy both had previous run-ins with the law but Newark officials say they “fell through the cracks” in the city’s screening process. Every employee, whether part-time or full-time, is required to get fingerprinted. But the city never received the background checks for any of the three employees allegedly involved with drug scheme.

“We are typically very, very conscious of who is going to be around our children and our elderly because that is a targeted population and they are vulnerable,” Kecia Daniels, the city’s deputy business administrator and former personnel director said.

A criminal conviction, however, does not automatically disqualify potential employees from being hired -- though Daniels said given their drug convictions they likely would not have been placed in a position around children.

Federal authorities began investigating the alleged drug scheme to distribute heroin and fentanyl in February 2018 and announced the charges last Wednesday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office identified Williams as one of the leaders of the drug trafficking organization who, along with seven others charged in the conspiracy, were members of the G-Shine Bloods.

It’s not clear who is representing Edwards in court.

Jackson, who was on federal probation through 2021, admitted maintaining telephone and email contact with incarcerated leaders of the Bloods and the Black Mafia Family in January 2018, court records show. His communications were “concerning” to his probation officer and he agreed to stop any affiliation with members of organized gangs, according to records filed in the Southern District of New York.

Jackson also asked the court for permission to travel to St. Lucia for his honeymoon this June, following his June 14 wedding to a Newark woman. The request stated he maintained “full-time, stable employment” with the Newark recreation department.

Daniels said Jackson was always a part-time employee.

Jackson’s public defender in his previous case did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s not clear who is currently representing him.

Hardy was an associate of the 793 Bloods and had previous weapons related convictions, according to previous court records. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin in 2009 and served 37 months in federal prison.

Documents show Hardy was distributing drugs between August 2007 and January 2008 in Newark and throughout Essex County.

Neither Hardy nor Jackson were identified by federal authorities as part of the G-Shine Bloods.

City officials have said they were surprised by the charges and had not received any complaints about these particular employees.

“I was in disbelief and dismayed,” Daniels said. “I...never thought that something like this would happen.”

“It’s a teachable moment for all of us. Now that we come up against this issue, it forces us to have these delicate conversations. We have to have a uniform process and treat everyone the same."

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