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Drug-trafficking ring leads to 30 indictments and arrest in 2019 Atlantic City killing

Thirty people have been indicted in a large Atlantic County drug-trafficking ring that led to murder charges against three in the killing of a beloved Atlantic City community leader.

Investigators seized $2.6 million in cash in the organization whose alleged leader continued to do business while held inside the Atlantic County jail, with the help of a corrections officer, according to the charges filed under the RICO Act.

Steven Martinez, 27, and Shiraz Khan, 31, have been operating the organization since 2016, supplying dealers with a multitude of narcotics, including heroin, cocaine, suboxone, Percocet and marijuana, the charges claim.

Martinez also is one of three in the organization accused of killing Demond Tally, who was fatally shot Feb. 10, 2019, after leaving the home of his close friend, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small.

Tally, 45, was found shot after a ShotSpotter alert came in at 5:13 a.m. Feb. 10, 2019.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Martinez, Shamar Scott, 25, and Deshawn Hose, 23, face murder and conspiracy charges in that case.

Many of those arrested already were incarcerated for other crimes, including Lorin Wright, who already has two murder charges in separate incidents.

He was recently charged last year with having drugs in the jail.

Another defendant, Isaiah Newsome, has a pending retrial in another murder in which there was previously a mistrial.

Khan’s arrest didn’t stop his work, according to the charges.

Instead, he allegedly got Corrections Officer Luis Mercado to help smuggle cell phones and drugs into the Justice Facility.

Several other gun and drug arrests were made from those now charged during the course of the four-year investigation, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in a brief press conference that was live-streamed on his office’s Facebook page.

In addition to the cash, investigators also seized three vehicles and eight parcels of land in areas including Hamilton Township, Pleasantville and Buena Borough.

Tyner credited the hard work of officers from Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic City and Galloway Township. Atlantic County Correctional Police Lt. Patrick Robinson assisted through the Investigations Unit at the Atlantic County Justice Facility.

“Effective partnerships between law enforcement agencies at all levels of government are essential to public safety,” said Atlantic City Interim Officer in Charge James Sarkos. “This extensive investigation is an example of the great teamwork that exists here in Atlantic County. 

“While we know that these charges will not bring their loved one back, we hope that this will bring some comfort and peace to the Tally family,” he said.

Tally himself had been looking for his own peace in the killing of his only son, Demond Cottman, around 1 a.m. Nov. 25, 2016, as Black Friday shopper outside the Hamilton Mall. That killing has not been solved.

Those charges are Khan, Martinez, Scott, Hose, Mercado, Wright, Kevin Moulden, Laura Corcino, Mehmmad Rehman, Shaquille Scott, Alexis Owens, Isaiah Newsome, Raekwon McKenney, Jahleem Montague-Williams, Niam Lyons, Santia Manssanet, Robert Strong, Joshua Cortes, Selina Acevado, Jeanette Campbell, Barry Bethea, Scott Dorn, Anthony Hamilton, Clifford Jones, Zachary Michael, Brian Campbell, Tashaun Pressley, Theresa Strong, Howard Dunns and Shamal Harvey.

Tyner released photos of all of the defendants. More than a third were clearly mugshots, despite him previously barring the jail from releasing such photos to media.

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