Long prison terms for two South Jersey men in drug-robbery sting

Minutes before they left to carry out a plan to steal 15 kilos of cocaine, Robert "Born" Smith and Derrick "Little D" Adams joined in a circle with other plotters in Willingboro to pray that their mission would go well and that they would return safely.

While working out details of the heist in January 2014, Smith said they would kill anyone who drew a weapon: "If he reach, we killing him."

Then, armed with guns, ammunition, masks, and zip ties, the two headed out with the others.

What Smith and Adams - described in court as career criminals - soon learned was that the operation was a setup. The mission to score drugs at a drug dealers' stash house was a sting orchestrated by undercover federal agents. Smith and Adams were among six people arrested.

The two were sentenced Monday to lengthy prison terms by U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman.

Smith, 43, of Trenton, was found guilty in a trial before Hillman this year. In a verbose reading of a motion he wrote, Smith argued Monday that his arrest was unconstitutional. He was sentenced to 30 years.

Adams, 30, of Florence and Willingboro, apologized for his behavior, saying he was influenced by his addiction to pain killers. Adams was sentenced to 10 years under a plea agreement.

"Your honor, I am an addict, and I need help," Adams said before he was sentenced Monday evening. Relatives and friends sat quietly in the courtroom to lend him support. Three spoke on his behalf, including the mother of his two young sons.

"He's my best friend," said Jorden Cleveland as she described how Adams cared for the boys and her daughter as if the girl were his own when Cleveland worked late nights as a nurse.

"I never met a man so loving, so caring," Cleveland said, admitting that both she and Adams struggled with addiction.

Adams' attorney, Ralph Jacobs, described his client as a low-level drug dealer with a record that included arrests for selling $5 bags of marijuana when he was a teenager and possession of a firearm during a dispute over $20.

Adams was "a stoned-out young man" with terrible judgment when he joined the crew planning to steal the kilos of coke, Jacobs said.

Smith's attorney, Justin T. Loughry, said his client had a tough childhood. Although Smith had numerous arrests, Loughry said, he did not sell large quantities of drugs.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin C. Danilewitz and Howard Wiener painted different pictures of the men, who they said had numerous opportunities to leave the conspiracy when an undercover agent indicated he could get someone else for the job.

Smith, according to court records, told the undercover agent his "soldiers" were "100 percent" with the plan to take down the opposing drug dealers by posing as federal agents executing a search warrant. They had a .40-caliber handgun and 9mm handguns if needed, and would "strap tie" the occupants of the stash house, Smith was recorded as saying during one meeting with the agent.

In an earlier meeting, Adams confirmed for the agent that his crew was ready. "They on deck," Adams said.

In January 2014, Adams told the undercover agent that he was not scared to rob drug dealers, and boasted that he already had served more than five years for attempted murder. On Monday, his attorney said Adams had not served time for attempted murder, but just wanted to sound tough. In addition to prison time, both men were ordered to undergo five years of supervised release.

Three others charged in the conspiracy - Daquon Basnight, 25; Jamiil McFarlane, 24; and Morris Muse, 36, all of Trenton - were previously sentenced. A sixth defendant, Sean Forman, 43, of Willingboro, has not yet been sentenced.

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