It was a bad move when Kabaka Atiba moved out of the house he shared with his girlfriend. His next roommates were drug traffickers, authorities said Friday, as the Absecon, N.J., man was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Camden to a 10-year prison term for selling crack cocaine.
Atiba, 47, was part of an Atlantic City trafficking ring that involved at least a dozen people and trafficked more than 100 kilograms of cocaine, authorities said. He sold at least 840 grams of crack cocaine over four years and was arrested Dec. 10, 2014. He was charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and pleaded guilty.
The alleged ringleader, Toye Tutis, sourced cocaine and heroin from the Mexican Sinaloa cartel through contacts in Los Angeles, officials said.
"This was a long-running drug conspiracy that Mr. Atiba was a part of," Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig told Judge Jerome B. Simandle as members of Atiba's family, including his mother, sat in the courtroom.
Federal authorities said they wiretapped Atiba's phone, looking through text messages and phone transcripts, before executing a search warrant in December 2014 at the Atlantic City home where he and other members of the ring were living, as well as other South Jersey properties tied to the alleged drug operation. Among the items agents said they found were more than eight firearms and $100,000 in cash in the Atlantic City house, as well as one kilogram of crack cocaine.
Jewell Tutis, brother of lead defendant Toye Tutis, and Atiba's half-brother, Tozine Tiller of Absecon, supplied Atiba with the cocaine. He then cooked it into crack cocaine, Carrig said.
The trio created a system of code words to use, Carrig said. After an Oct. 6, 2014, transaction for 14 ounces of cocaine, phone transcripts show Atiba telling Jewell Tutis that he needed "one more onion," meaning an ounce of cocaine, Carrig said.
Before joining the trafficking operation, Atiba held a job with the City of Atlantic City and made more than $28,000 a year, his attorney, David Rudenstein, said. Carrig said Atiba moved in with the other conspirators after having difficulties in his relationship with his girlfriend, who also was in the courtroom audience.
"He moves out of the home he shares with his girlfriend or significant other and into basically a frat house of drug trafficking," Carrig said. "He's hanging out with all these guys engaging in drug trafficking there."
Federal prosecutors say the ring laundered up to $3 million in drug proceeds. Toye Tutis and his partner, Jazmin Vega, 41, laundered the profits through several businesses they owned together, including Ta'Ja Construction LLC; Ta'Ja Real Estate Investors LLC; and Integrity Heating & Cooling LLC. The couple bought more than 30 properties with the drug money.