Defendants Tied to Brownsville-based Crews Charged in 15 Separate Indictments;
Used Forged Credit Cards to Purchase American Girl Dolls, Rental Cars, Concert Tickets;
Others Charges include a Home Invasion and Owning Gun 8-Year-Old Brought to School
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, today announced that 35 alleged members of street gangs and crews have been variously charged in 15 indictments with narcotics distribution, weapons possession, burglaries, forgery and identity theft. The charges are the result of a long-term investigation that relied on electronic surveillance and exposed a multitude of criminal activities, from violent street crime to sophisticated credit card fraud.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “By targeting known gang members responsible for violence in our streets, we have exposed and interrupted a number of interconnected criminal enterprises, from drug dealing to credit card forgeries. As alleged, the defendants targeted not only their neighbors – who they attacked and robbed in their homes and on the street – but also strangers who they’d never met, stealing their identities to line their own pockets. It is no longer enough to target the perpetrators of violent acts; public safety also requires us to pursue the criminals whose fraudulent financial schemes support violent gangs and their members. Our strategic approach will continue until we have incapacitated the drivers of violence in our communities and financial schemers who make everyone a victim.”
“This case is the latest example of precision policing at work,” said Police Commissioner O’Neill. “The result of the NYPD’s focus is impressive. For those from Brownsville, this is the end of Hoodstarz’s violence, identity theft, bogus rental cars, and drug dealing that permeated the streets. I’d like to thank the Acting Brooklyn District Attorney for his work and partnership on this case – and many others.”
The Acting District Attorney said that the defendants were arraigned last week and yesterday. The prosecution is divided into three areas: narcotics distribution; burglaries, weapons possession and other acts of violence; and financial crimes. Four defendants have been variously charged in a 94-count indictment with first-, second- and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree conspiracy and related counts. Fourteen defendants have been variously charged in three indictments totaling 238, 137 and 40 counts with second-degree forgery, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree identity theft and related counts. Twenty-two defendants have been variously charged in 11 indictments with first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree assault and other counts. [Some of the defendants have been charged in multiple indictments; see defendant addendum].
The Acting District Attorney said the investigation started in the fall of 2015 and focused on gang-related gun violence, narcotics sales, robberies and other criminal activities in Brownsville, Brooklyn, by individuals associated with the Hoodstarz street gang and affiliated crews, including Folk Nation and the 823 Crips. The investigation relied primarily on electronic surveillance, including monitoring of Facebook conversations and cell phone communications. The evidence has led to charges relating to various crimes, including:
On January 26, 2016, Jayquan Wimms, Shaquille Armstrong, Jhalanie Jones, Kamal Chase and Sebastian Maione allegedly committed a home invasion at an apartment on St. Marks Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Maione, who knew the victim, a purported marijuana dealer, entered the apartment and, moments later, the co-defendants pushed their way in. The apartment dweller was pistol-whipped and he and his girlfriend were held at gun point, according to the investigation. The defendants left with cash, cell phones, computers and a Play Station 4 gaming system that was later sold by Wimms at a GameStop location, the evidence showed.
On May 27, 2016, an 8-year-old boy was caught inside Public School 91 in East Flatbush with an operable gun that was in his backpack. Later that day, the evidence showed, Sean Burgess was heard in a phone conversation saying, “Bro, my, my brother got caught up in a jam…that was my chop,” referring to the firearm. The investigation determined that the boy was a relative who lived with Burgess at the same residence and the defendant has been charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
On August 10, 2015, a group of people entered the Upper 90 soccer store in Boerum Hill, took $4,000 worth of merchandise and stormed out. Through communications that were intercepted months later, Khalil Chase, Sherif Randolph and Shavelle Mills were identified as the alleged perpetrators of the theft and indicted for grand larceny.
Between November 2015 and October 2016, Andre Cheeves, Hasean Wyche, Andrew Leebing and Tyrone Sexton were allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to sell cocaine on the streets of Brooklyn, primarily in and around Brownsville. The defendants used coded and cryptic communication to evade law enforcement, according to the indictment.
On December 2015 and January 2016, Tyrone Sexton made at least two online purchases totaling about $378 and $384 from American Girl, the doll company owned by Mattel, allegedly using credit card information stolen from two women. The merchandise was shipped to his Brownsville apartment, the evidence showed. On May 2, 2016, Sexton purchased 16 tickets to the Summer Jam concert at MetLife Stadium for $1,960, allegedly using stolen credit card information of a woman from Minnesota. Following a conversation with a customer representative who asked for “Carol” and was told by the defendant that he was Carol and he has a “female name,” the transaction was cancelled.
Between December 2015 and May 2016, Felipe Avila Sr. and Felipe Avila Jr. (father and son) allegedly used a forged Pennsylvania driver’s license, other documents and stolen financial information that was embossed onto fraudulent credit cards to create ZipCar accounts. They then used the bogus cards to rent a BMX X3, a Cadillac ATS, a Chrysler 200 and other vehicles from ZipCar and other rental companies, according to the indictment. During the execution of a search warrant at the defendants’ home, over 700 allegedly forged credit, debit and gift cards and three embossing machines were recovered.
On January 5, 2016, Shaquille Reid was allegedly provided by Sexton with a Bank of America account number and received a blank credit card from Avila Jr., according to the indictment. Using an embossing machine, Reid allegedly created a forged credit card bearing his name and used it to pay for numerous taxi rides and other expenses. At various times, in order to check that the card was still active without raising suspicion, the defendant made $1 purchases at a Muni Meter parking machine, the investigation found.
The investigation was conducted by New York City Police Department Detectives James Miles and Andy Ramaya, Sergeant Andy Dunton and Lieutenant Richard Zacarese of the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Division, under the supervision of Assistant Chief James Essig and the overall supervision of Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Corey S. Shoock, Laurie Baio and Nicholas Scott of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, and Jonathan R. Sennett, Deputy Chief, with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney David McMaster, formerly of VCE, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Nicole Chavis, Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
An indictment is merely an accusation and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.