Defendants with Ties to Brooklyn Street Gangs Arrested for their Roles in Gun and Drug Trafficking in East New York
Four indictments and two complaints were unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging 14 defendants for their involvement in narcotics trafficking and illegal weapons possession in the Cypress Hills Houses, a New York City Housing Authority complex located in East New York, Brooklyn.
The defendants’ initial appearances and arraignments are scheduled this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).
“These charges send the message that the United States Attorney’s Office stands fully in support of the residents of the Cypress Hills Houses who have been victimized too long by those who have been flooding their neighborhood with guns and drugs,” stated United States Attorney Capers. Mr. Capers thanked the Kings County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance with the government’s investigation.
“The scope and nature of this investigation reads like something out of a Hollywood movie script, involving a massive drug trafficking network and deadly violence. But the actions of these alleged gang members who have held a community hostage are real and have real consequences that the FBI NY Metro Safe Streets Task Force, the NYPD, and our law enforcement partners won’t allow them to escape,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
“As alleged, the members of the Cypress Hills neighborhood have seen drugs and guns pour into our streets. The department targeted the crime with the same precise, targeted policing that has been used in the hundreds of arrests we have made in recent months,” said Police Commissioner Bratton. “This is the latest in our increasing and on-going efforts to arrest gangs and crews who carry weapons, deal drugs, or commit violence. Thanks as always to the FBI and the Eastern District of New York for their continued commitment to making our city safer with today’s enforcement.”
As alleged in the various documents filed in court by the government, the Cypress Hills Houses (“Cypress”) have been besieged in recent years by gang- and drug-related violence, including numerous homicides and a significant number of non-fatal shootings. In response to this criminal activity inflicted on the residents of the more than 1,400 apartments in Cypress, since November 2015, the FBI, the NYPD, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have been conducting an investigation of a neighborhood-based street gang known as the Back Side crew – the Back Side refers to the section of Cypress that borders Euclid Avenue. The investigation revealed that in recent years, the Back Side crew has closely aligned with members of the Team Side crew – the Team Side refers to the section of Cypress that borders Fountain Avenue – and that some members of the two crews self-identify as members of the Crips criminal street gang.
The government’s investigation included court-authorized wiretaps of telephones used by the defendants, which confirmed the existence of a large-scale drug trafficking operation and in which all of the defendants charged in United States v. Renee Belardo, et al., 16-CR-297 (AMD), one of the indictments unsealed today, were active participants. During just a five-month period, that operation was responsible for the distribution of more than a kilogram of cocaine powder that was cooked into more than 280 grams of crack cocaine and distributed in and around Cypress and upstate New York.
The investigation also revealed that some of the defendants were involved in firearms trafficking, illegal weapons possession, and other criminal conduct, including a large-scale and fraudulent credit card scheme. On May 3, 2016, pursuant to a lawfully-authorized search warrant, the FBI seized and searched a Fed-Ex package that one defendant attempted to ship to a co-conspirator in Georgia containing more than 1,300 fraudulently manufactured credit cards that bore no name or stored information.
The other charging instruments unsealed today include three indictments: United States v. Jason Soto, 16-CR-298 (ILG); United States v. James Young, 16-CR-296 (BMC); United States v. Darnell Clinkscale, 16-CR-299 (ARR); and two criminal complaints: United States v. Guillermina Escobar, 16-M-483; and United States v. Nicholas Medina, 16-M-481.
If convicted of the narcotics charges, Tyriek Hankins, Isiah Sadler, Anthony Keitt, Michael Vailes, Dimas Perez, and Ronald Jackson each face a maximum of life imprisonment.
The charges are all merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Margaret Gandy and Andrey Spektor are in charge of the prosecution.