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By Rick Hepp
The Star-Ledger

NEWARK, N.J. - A Northern State Prison guard suspected of running a cocaine trafficking ring in Newark and East Orange was arrested yesterday following an 11-month investigation that began after he fatally shot another man, the state attorney general announced.
No charges have been filed against Eugene Braswell in connection with the August death of Wali Williams, a convicted drug dealer who shot at Braswell while he was sitting on his porch and was killed when the off-duty officer retrieved his gun and returned fire. But the subsequent probe by the State Police and state Division of Criminal Justice uncovered a massive drug operation allegedly being orchestrated by Braswell out of his Grand Avenue home in Newark.
Braswell, 29, is charged with running the drug network, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession with intent to distribute, distribution, money laundering and conspiracy. There is no evidence that Braswell, who could face 20 years, was trafficking in drugs at the Newark prison, prosecutors said.
Braswell's attorney, Paul Bergrin, called his client an outstanding law enforcement officer who is dedicated to public service.
"I don't believe the charges have any merit, either legally or factually, and I am totally confident that he will be vindicated and owned an apology for his illegal and unlawful arrest," Bergrin said. "He did absolutely nothing wrong."
State detectives have spent the last 11 months watching and listening in on telephone conversations as Braswell and others in his crew arranged to purchase cocaine in Texas and Florida and drive it back to New Jersey in vehicles that contained trap doors to conceal plastic-wrapped kilograms of cocaine, court documents show.
Braswell had a close call in January when he was stopped by a sheriff's officer in Florida on a motor vehicle violation and a drug dog smelled the presence of narcotics, according to the documents; a search found no drugs, although police did find $25,000 in cash.
After developing the case, detectives moved in this month as members of the crew flew to Houston to purchase 20 kilos of cocaine, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed with the court by Detective Sgt. Geoffrey Forker of the State Police's official corruption unit.
On July 10, one of Braswell's crew, Delrese Hardy, flew to Houston to arrange the sale with an unknown man, Forker noted. The following day, Hardy purchased the drugs from the man and loaded them into a Dodge van that was driven back to New Jersey by two other crew members, Walter Braden and Shuerod Walton.
Unknown to them, two state Division of Criminal Justice detectives were watching the whole thing from a nearby position, and state authorities tracked their cross-country trip using the global positioning system in Braden's phone, Forker said. When the van got into New Jersey, the State Police arrested the men and seized the cocaine.
Braden and Walton, charged with possession with intent to distribute, were ordered held on $500,000 bail. That led to a flurry of calls between Braswell and Hardy about the arrest, including one in which Hardy said he nearly vomited after learning that the drugs had been seized, the affidavit said.
Based on that and other evidence, the state yesterday arrested Braswell; Hardy, 34, of East Orange; Joseph "Wink" Jones, 37, of Newark; and Antwan "Boog" Jones, 36, of Sewaren. Joseph Jones is Braswell's brother-in-law and lives above him at the Grand Avenue home.
All three have convictions for possessing and selling drugs and carrying illegal weapons, the affidavit said. Joseph Jones also was convicted in 1995 for conspiracy to commit homicide.
Authorities also found $16,000 and drug packaging material from Braswell's home and a .357 Magnum in one of his cars, the state said. They also seized both his vehicles, a 2002 Cadillac Escalade and a 2003 Chevrolet van.

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