The rapper Fetty Wap and five other men have been charged with running a multimillion-dollar drug trafficking ring that distributed more than 100 kilograms of deadly opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, on Long Island and in New Jersey, federal prosecutors said Friday.
William Junior Maxwell II, 30, of Paterson, New Jersey, also known as Fetty Wap, and the others — including three from Suffolk County — were charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess controlled substances, according to a superseding indictment unsealed Friday.
Prosecutors identified the other defendants as New Jersey correction Officer Anthony Cyntje, 23, of Passaic; Anthony Leonardi, 47, of Coram; his brother Robert Leonardi, 26, of Levittown, Pennsylvania; Brian Sullivan, 26, of Lake Grove; and Kavaughn Wiggins, known as "KV," 26, of Coram. They were also charged with using firearms in connection with a drug trafficking crime.
"As alleged, the defendants transported, distributed and sold more than 100 kilograms of deadly and addictive drugs, including heroin and fentanyl, on Long Island, deliberately contributing to the opioid epidemic that has devastated our communities and taken too many lives," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
Maxwell, a two-time Grammy nominee who gained notoriety with the 2014 hit single "Trap Queen," was arrested late Thursday afternoon by FBI agents at Citi Field in Queens, where he was billed as a performer at the Rolling Loud music festival. U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Locke ordered Maxwell held without bail during a virtual arraignment in federal court in Central Islip.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Kubetz, who requested a delay to the speedy trial statute that requires the government to bring a case to trial 70 days from a defendant's initial court appearance, told the judge: "I also understand that defense counsel would like the opportunity to engage in plea negotiations with us."
Kubetz added that Maxwell, if convicted, could face 10 years to life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio, who represented Maxwell during the arraignment, did not object to Maxwell's detention without bail. Maxwell confirmed to the judge he waived his right to a speedy trial until Nov. 24.
Maxwell's entertainment attorney, Navarro W. Gray, of Hackensack, New Jersey, said in a statement: "We pray that this is all a big misunderstanding. ... We hope that he is released so we can clear things up expeditiously."
The case grew out of a joint investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, Suffolk police and the Drug Enforcement Administration last year when three of the defendants — Cyntje, Sullivan and Anthony Leonardi — were arrested for their alleged roles in the scheme.
"These defendants ran a multimillion-dollar bicoastal drug distribution organization with Suffolk County as their home base," Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement Friday. "They were wholesale drug dealers who pumped massive quantities of narcotics into our communities."
Authorities seized approximately $1.5 million in cash, 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, fentanyl pills, two 9 mm handguns, a rifle, a .45 caliber pistol, a .40 caliber pistol, and ammunition through executed search warrants, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege that from about June 2019 through June 2020, the men distributed more than 100 kilograms of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and crack cocaine after obtaining the drugs on the West Coast and transporting them back to Suffolk County, where they were stored. The drugs were sent through the mail and transported by drivers with hidden vehicle compartments, according to prosecutors.
The Leonardi brothers, along with Sullivan and Wiggins, participated in buying and transporting the drugs, while Maxwell was a kilogram-level redistributor and Cyntje transported kilograms of cocaine from Long Island to New Jersey, prosecutors said.
Long Island has been hard-hit by the opioid crisis, with hundreds of residents dying annually from opioid overdoses.
"I often wish that drug dealers could spend just 10 minutes with parents who have buried their children and will be facing empty chairs around the Thanksgiving dinner table," said Jeffrey L. Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Garden City-based drug treatment and mental health services center Family & Children’s Association.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement: "The fact that we arrested a chart-topping rap artist and a corrections officer as part of the conspiracy illustrates just how vile the drug trade has become."