UPDATED: JERSEY CITY GANG MEMBER CHARGED WITH MURDER

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION

JERSEY CITY GANG MEMBER CHARGED WITH MURDER

NEWARK, N.J. – An alleged member of a Jersey City, New Jersey, gang has been charged with the March 31, 2020, murder of a Jersey City resident, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced on Tuesday.

Phillip Wiggins Jr., 24, of Newark, is charged by complaint with one count each of murder in aid of racketeering, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and causing death through use of a firearm. He made his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer and was detained without bail.

According to dailyvoice.com, Honig announced that her office has taken over the prosecution of Wiggins for the slaying of Damone “Munch” Smith.  Investigators say Wiggins, who belongs to the Wilkinson Avenue gang, shot Smith in the chest near the corner of Rose and Cator Avenues.  Wiggins was a fugitive at the time of the shooting, wanted by law enforcement authorities in Texas.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Wiggins is allegedly associated with a street gang known to operate in the area of Wilkinson Avenue, Ocean Avenue, Martin Luther King Drive, and Wegman Parkway in Jersey City. On March 31, 2020, Wiggins traveled to an area controlled by a rival gang with which Wilkinson was feuding, and allegedly murdered Victim-1 (Smith).

Additional information published by dailyvoice.com says, “Smith, who purportedly ran with the Rutgers Avenue crew, was one of several victims killed or wounded during a prolonged gang war that federal investigators traced back to mid-summer 2019.  The Rutgers faction aligned itself with members from two public housing complexes, Marion Gardens and Curries Woods.  The three operated as one against similarly allied gangs from Wilkinson and the Salem-Lafayette (SaLaf) apartment complex, federal authorities said.  Marion and Wilkinson also waged their own deadly feuds.”

Wiggins faces a potential mandatory life sentence for the murder in aid of racketeering count. The count of causing death through use of a firearm carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The count of discharging a firearm during an act of violence carries a potential mandatory consecutive sentence of 10 years in prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig credited the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Esther Suarez, and the Jersey City Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director James Shea, as well as special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.

This investigation was conducted as part of the Jersey City Violent Crime Initiative (VCI). The VCI was formed in 2018 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Jersey City Police Department, for the sole purpose of combatting violent crime in and around Jersey City. As part of this partnership, federal, state, county, and city agencies collaborate to strategize and prioritize the prosecution of violent offenders who endanger the community. The VCI is composed of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the ATF, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New Jersey Division, the U.S. Marshals, the Jersey City Police Department, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey State Parole Board, the Hudson County Jail, and the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center/Real Time Crime Center.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francesca Liquori of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sophie Reiter of the Violent Crime Unit.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Defense counsel: Rubin Sinins Esq., Springfield, New Jersey