Advocate for homeless accused of running Camden drug market

AP News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2015 4:45 PM
Advocate for homeless accused of running Camden drug market

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A man whose job included helping homeless addicts in Camden get drug treatment is facing charges that he ran an operation that sold heroin and crack cocaine.

Harold "Hal" Miller, a program coordinator at Joseph's House, a homeless shelter partly funded by rock star Jon Bon Jovi, was charged with drug conspiracy in a federal indictment dated Sept. 1 and was arrested a day later. The shelter's executive director, John Klein, said Tuesday that Miller no longer works there, though he wasn't sure whether he resigned or was fired by the human resources department after the charges.

The charges are an example of how complicated life can be in a city that is among the most impoverished and crime-ridden in the country. Miller, sometimes cast as a hero, is now accused, along with five others, of being a villain.

"We think, good Lord, this is in direct opposition to all that we stand for," said Klein, who noted that Miller had a talent for talking to all sorts of people. "We're here to help people with things like this, not to perpetuate them."

Christopher O'Malley, the federal public defender representing Miller, said Tuesday that he could not comment on the case.

According to the indictment, Miller, 38, spent just a few hours a day at his job and the rest of his time overseeing a drug "set" in East Camden, making sure dealers had drugs to sell and collecting the money. Klein said Miller did not shirk on his job duties and that he worked overnight, so he was not supposed to be on duty during the day.

Miller, a Camden native, was known among homeless people as someone who really wanted to help them.

As an outreach worker for Volunteers of America, he used to let journalists reporting on homelessness in Camden ride in his van to visit encampments where he would hand out snacks and offer to connect people with services such as shelter space and drug treatment.

Jeremy Rosen, then a columnist at the Courier-Post newspaper of Cherry Hill, praised him in a 2010 column: "Through all the inaction and excuses, it is refreshing to find someone like Miller, who doesn't focus on what's not being done. He just does whatever it takes to improve the lives of Camden's destitute."

Miller left his Volunteers of America job last year for Joseph's House, which has received donations — and visits — from Bon Jovi.

In the Joseph's House newsletter last year, Miller wrote that its "professional and ethical staff" makes the service provider special.

The indictment says Miller, who had been the subject of an investigation since December 2013, met a drug supplier in the parking lot of the shelter to replace counterfeit money with real currency. Klein said there's no evidence of drug-dealing involving the shelter's guests or other employees.

Miller, a married father who lives in suburban Mantua, has a criminal past. In 1996, as a teenager, he was sentenced to four years in prison for selling drugs; he later did time for a weapons conviction and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after being accused of assault.

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