Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, right, reaches for a gun with Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown during a news conference on Friday, June 17, 2011, at police headquarters.
It was a bad week for drug dealing in New York City.
Since Monday, 140 people across the city were busted for trafficking and violence after four long-term investigations wrapped up with officers decimating gang ranks and drug rings, and seizing a cache of heroin and cocaine, cash and illegal weapons, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday.
In Manhattan, 22 people were indicted in an East Harlem cocaine operation that worked like a pizza delivery service — but with drugs, officials said. It was led by a longtime ringleader so invested in his kingpin image that he kept a framed photo of his face superimposed on a shot of Al Pacino in the role of drug kingpin Tony Montana in the film "Scarface," officials said.
The East Harlem group had delivery workers organized in two eight-hour shifts a day, equipped with cellphones, "company" cars and business cards coyly emblazoned with "General Electronics" and a phone number for customers to call, authorities said. During a 45-day stretch this spring, the group sold 4,200 bags of powder cocaine for a total of about $80,000, prosecutors said.
"This is one of those rare occasions where, from top to bottom, this organization is now gone," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, standing in front of a table strewn with some of the $550,000 in cash, $600,000 in jewelry, guns, drug-dealing paraphernalia and photos of some of the nine vehicles — including a Mercedes, a Land Rover and a custom-made motorcycle — seized during the investigation. Authorities also collected more than two kilograms of cocaine and six pounds of marijuana.
A Queens bust was the largest, with 56 people charged with crimes ranging from attempted murder to weapons possession. Of those, 30 — mostly customers — have pleaded guilty to various charges including drug possession and disorderly conduct. The bust also gutted a street crew called the Gang of Apes that terrorized the Far Rockaway neighborhood; 18 suspected members were arrested, officials said. The gang gained power after police dismantled its predecessor.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said authorities "put a stranglehold" on the gang by going after suppliers, and customers as well as non-gang traffickers. Their investigation led them to seize a shipment of drugs in Kentucky from Puerto Rico that was meant for New York.
Staten Island officials arrested 30 people in a takedown earlier this week, Kelly said. And in the Bronx, District Attorney Robert Johnson announced that 40 people were indicted after a two-year drug investigation. Sean "Showboy" Nelson, 31, and Jason Weir, 27, were charged with operating as a major trafficker, a relatively new high-level felony in New York. It carries a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Nelson pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. Weir will be arraigned next week after he is extradited from Connecticut. It's not clear if he had a lawyer and there is no listed phone number for him.
The statute is also being used to prosecute the suspected Manhattan ringleader, Ceferino "Papo" Perez and his two accused lieutenants. Perez, 44, is being held without bail after pleading not guilty.
Authorities said Perez has been in the business for a quarter-century, but he was so wary — frequently replacing the organization's cars to keep police from noticing them, for instance — that only in the last year did arrests and other breaks allow police to build the case through wiretaps and other means, authorities said.
Police found the "Scarface" photo on Perez's nightstand when they searched his apartment in suburban Yonkers on Wednesday.