PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Abdul West, 38, of Brookhaven, PA, was sentenced to 45 years in prison, ten years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $5,000 fines by United States District Judge Michael M. Baylson for his role as the leader of the Original Block Hustlaz, or “OBH,” a violent drug trafficking organization that doubled as a group of aspiring rap artists in Philadelphia. Two of West’s co-defendants, Jamaal Blanding, 39, and Jameel Hickson, 43, both of Philadelphia, PA, were also recently sentenced and received 25 and 20 years in prison, respectively.
In November 2019, all three defendants, plus an additional defendant who is still awaiting sentencing, Hans Gadson, 36, also of Philadelphia, PA, were convicted, after a two-and-a-half-week trial on charges that included conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and distribution of or possession with intent to distribute cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine. Several other co-defendants pled guilty prior to trial. In total, nine defendants connected to OBH were charged in a 16-count Second Superseding Indictment in August 2019. All nine were convicted or pled guilty.
Between at least March 2017 through June of 2018, OBH poisoned the Philadelphia community by importing dangerous narcotics, including large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine, from California to Philadelphia and then selling those drugs in the Philadelphia area. To further their drug business, OBH employed fear, intimidation, and violence. West was the driving force behind the violent character of OBH and routinely posted rap videos and other messages on social media in which he communicated threats of violence, and which demonstrated his power and authority within the organization. According to court documents, West ordered a member of the organization to murder a former member of the group, identified as R.J., because West believed R.J. was involved with West’s “enemy” and “playing both sides of the fence.” R.J. was ultimately shot multiple times and died.
In September 2017, officers and detectives from the Philadelphia Police Department executed a search warrant at 3234 North Sydenham Street, which was a property used by members of OBH to store and sell drugs. During the execution of the search warrant, numerous drugs were seized, including approximately 62 grams of cocaine base (“crack”), 229 grams of heroin, and 48 grams of a methamphetamine mixture. The officers also seized $8,101 from the residence.
In May 2018, FBI agents executed a search warrant on an apartment on Columbus Boulevard, another property used by OBH to store drugs. During the execution of the search warrant, the FBI and seized 10 kilograms of cocaine, nearly 6 pounds of pure methamphetamine, and $20,000 in cash.
In a related case, defendant Charles Salley, 39, of Clayton, Delaware, pleaded guilty to witness tampering in connection with the above-referenced trial. During the trial, a cooperating witness received a threatening letter from Salley under the pen name “Ron Harvey,” threatening physical violence if the witness testified at trial against West and his OBH associates. Salley was present in the courtroom during the course of the trial, including on the day of the witness’ scheduled testimony. The threatening letter was investigated by the FBI and the witness ultimately testified during the trial. Salley is scheduled to be sentenced in August 2021.
“West and his OBH co-defendants pumped huge quantities of deadly drugs into our community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “As the evidence presented at trial showed, the defendant’s violent lyrics weren’t just creative expression, they were truthful depictions of the mayhem OBH created on the streets of Philadelphia. Our Office is determined to continue doing everything we can by being ‘All Hands On Deck’ to get violent criminals like OBH off the streets.”
This West/OBH case is part of the FBI’s Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force, a program through which federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies collaboratively address the violent crime plaguing communities. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Everett Witherell and Timothy M. Stengel. The Salley case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Ashenfelter.