Authorities have arrested three people on allegations that they used cocaine and operated a prostitution ring out of a senior citizen housing complex in Englewood, N.J.

In late April, authorities arrested and charged 75-year-old James Parham and 66-year-old Cheryl Chaney with possessing drug paraphernalia and maintaining a drug nuisance at the Vincente Tibbs Senior Citizen Building located in the northern part of the state, according to the Associated Press. Chaney faces an additional charge of possession of crack cocaine.

Parham also admitted to providing prostitutes to some of his younger neighbors in the building, Detective Capt. Timothy Torell told The Bergen Record.

A believed accomplice, 54-year-old Selma McDuffie, was charged with having a crack pipe. The school crossing guard has been suspended from her job and threatened with arrest if she returns to the building.

Officials at the Englewood Housing Authority, which manages the 152-unit property on the 100 block of West St., said Parham and Chaney passed criminal background checks before they were given residence in the complex, which serves disabled persons who are 55 years and older, and low-income residents who are 62 years and older.

“They came up absolutely clean,” Maria Iwano, the housing authority’s executive director, told The Record. “They had nothing to prevent us from putting them in the building.”

But the suspects, including McDuffie, were believed to be behind a rash of crimes in the complex. And, residents often complained about vagrants, drunks and addicts invading their building, authorities said, prompting a sting operation.

“Essentially, they were prisoners in their own building,” Englewood Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe said of the residents, according to The Record. “I wasn’t going to allow that to continue.”

Tenants say they are grateful that authorities have put a stop to the menace and for round-the-clock police protection.

“Things are getting better,” said James Harrison, an 11-year resident. “Druggies and drunks, that’s what used to be here, all day long, day and night.”

“This is a senior citizen center not a whorehouse,” resident Evelyn Parson told the local ABC affiliate. “Thank God my prayers were answered.”

Parham was scheduled to appear in Municipal Court in Englewood on May 15, while Chaney and McDuffie are due in court June 11.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO