At the Camden nonprofits he worked at for nearly a decade, Harold Miller moved the homeless to shelters and provided them with blankets and food, calling his job "my life's work."

But outside that work, federal authorities say, Miller had a nickname - "Killer Clown" - and another job: Selling drugs.

Now, the advocate for the homeless, quoted in numerous news articles over the years, is facing charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine, and is held without bail at the federal detention center in Philadelphia.

The allegations - that Miller oversaw packaging, pricing, and payments for an East Camden drug ring - stunned Joseph's House of Camden, which hired Miller in January 2014 upon receiving strong endorsements of his homeless outreach and community connections. Prior to that, Miller, 38, of Mantua, had worked seven years for Volunteers of America.

"It was quite, we thought, a good choice to make," said John Klein, executive director at Joseph's House, a homeless shelter partially funded by the musician Jon Bon Jovi. "And we're looking back on it now, just scratching our heads, and asking, 'How do you put these two things together?' "

Klein and a spokeswoman for Volunteers of America said they did not believe Miller sold drugs to other employees or the homeless people he tried to help.

"I asked that question, 'Is there any implication of anybody else, guest or staff?' and I was told no," Klein said, recalling a conversation with the nonprofit's attorney. "I'm relieved to hear that."

The FBI began tracking Miller's alleged operation in December 2013 and continued through last month, using camera surveillance, confidential sources, and GPS devices that authorities installed on two of Miller's cars. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office and Police Department assisted in the investigation.

Miller's drug ring operated in the 500 block of Pfeiffer Street in East Camden, authorities said.

During that time, Miller also worked as the overnight program coordinator at Joseph's House, where Klein said he mentored the staff on how to build trust with the homeless and guide them to the right resources.

According to a complaint filed Sept. 1 in federal court in Camden, an FBI agent stated that Miller "typically spends no more than a few hours of each weekday at a workplace, then devotes the balance of the day to overseeing his drug-trafficking activities."

The agent said Miller's operation sold crack in pink and yellow bags for $10 each. Some of Miller's workers also provided regular customers a "bonus" - several free bags, according to the complaint.

Five others allegedly involved in Miller's ring also face drug charges. All have drug convictions in their past.

One of the individuals, Rodney Wall, 29, of Camden, was shot in June 2006 on the street where the ring operated, and was arrested there four times between 2009 and 2014.

Miller also has prior convictions, the complaint said. In 1996, he was convicted of drug possession and sentenced to four years in prison. In 2001, he was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon and sentenced to 37 months in prison.

After his release, he was charged with aggravated assault and making terroristic threats after a woman told police in Camden that he had tried to rape her, the complaint said. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

Joseph's House found the 1996 drug conviction through a background check. Klein said that the other two convictions did not surface, and that he wasn't sure why.

After speaking with Miller about the 1996 charge and talking to other community service providers about Miller's outreach work, Klein said, he decided to hire him.

"The way we looked at it was, 'Here's a young guy who lives in the city, has a past,' " Klein said, " 'but for the past 15 or more years has been a model guy.' "

Miller is no longer employed by Joseph's House, following his Sept. 2 arrest. Klein declined to say whether he was terminated.

In a June 2014 newsletter published by the shelter, Miller wrote that "providing services for the homeless has become my life's work."

"A true accomplishment is the ability to know each of our guests by name," he wrote. "Traveling through the voyage of their everyday lives has given me the experience and insight on how we can better suit their needs."

At Volunteers of America, where Miller worked from November 2006 to January 2014, he coordinated the local homeless-outreach team, going to homeless camps in extreme temperatures and trying to move people inside.

In January 2014, when The Inquirer accompanied Miller to a homeless tent encampment, he gave people coffee and sleeping bags. When a man declined his offer of a shelter, Miller told him, "If you change your mind, call me, and I promise there will be a warm bed waiting for you."

Rebecca Fuller, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit, said the recent allegations were a surprise.

"It's certainly not the Hal that we knew," she said. "He was always a great employee when he was here."

She said that Volunteers of America does not believe Miller sold drugs to any of the homeless people he tried to help.

"It's certainly nothing that we saw," Fuller said. "He wasn't alone when he was going out, ever, so it wasn't something that he would have been doing rogue."

Miller's attorney, Christopher O'Malley, did not return a call Tuesday afternoon.