News and Press Releases

Eight Members of a Violent Police-impersonation Robbery Crew Indicted

May 06, 2008

Defendants Net More Than750 Kilograms of Cocaine and $4 Million in Drug Proceeds in Over One Hundred Robberies

An indictment was unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging eight leaders, members, and associates of a violent robbery crew for their participation in more than one hundred armed robberies of narcotics traffickers along the east coast of the United States that netted more than 750 kilograms of cocaine and $4 million in drug proceeds. During their crime spree, which began in May 2003, the crew members posed as police officers in order to subdue narcotics traffickers and their families, and then kidnaped, tortured, and robbed their victims.1 The defendants arrested in New York will be arraigned later today before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

The indictment and arrests were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Robert T. Johnson, District Attorney, Bronx County, New York, John P. Gilbride, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York, and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.

According to the indictment and the government’s detention memorandum, the investigation began in 2006 and revealed that the Queens-based robbery crew used cars equipped with lights and sirens to impersonate police officers and apprehend their victims. The victims were then taken to remote locations where they were threatened with death, beaten, and tortured until they disclosed the location of drugs and cash. Crew members then allegedly stole the drug proceeds and narcotics, primarily cocaine, and re-sold the drugs in the New York City metropolitan area. The robberies were carried out in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. During the course of its operation, the crew injured more than one hundred victims and stole cocaine with an estimated street value of over $20 million and approximately $4 million in cash. As part of its investigation, law enforcement seized several kilograms of cocaine, more than 20 operable firearms, handcuffs, scanners, and vehicles equipped with lights and sirens.

“This violent crew of robbers and drug dealers was breathtaking in the scope of its crimes and in the danger it posed to our communities,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “Through the close cooperation of federal, state, and local law enforcement across the country, the crew’s reign of terror has been put to an end. The defendants will now be held to account for their crimes.” Mr. Campbell thanked the New York State Police, the Durham, North Carolina Police, Special Operations Division, Major Crimes Unit, and the Philadelphia Police Department for their assistance in the investigation.

Bronx County District Attorney Johnson stated, “The boldness of this crime spree seriously undermined public safety by exacerbating the potential for escalating violence in an already ruthless business. It also wrongfully stained the reputations of thousands of honest, dedicated, and hard working New York City Police Officers. This enterprise was a dangerous dance of alleged criminals preying upon other alleged criminals, who themselves profited from the desperation of drug abusers. Fortunately, our cooperative efforts at the federal and local levels have stopped this dance.”

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Gilbride stated, “This crew left a trail of destruction behind them as they conducted their day to day drug trafficking operation along the East Coast. By using threats and violence, this organization reaped millions of dollars of profit on the selling of illegal narcotics. With a coordinated and focused plan, law enforcement caught up with this crew and they now will be facing justice.”

NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “This robust investigation and collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies foiled a criminal enterprise that used police impersonation among its weapons and had spread to at least six states. The members of the Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-32 Redrum and the 46th Precinct Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit team are to be commended for tamping this wellspring of violence and drug trafficking.”

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mary Barr and Andrea Goldbarg, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy Shockett from the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.

The Defendants:

FRANKLIN ACOSTA DE VARGAS, also known as “Luis Hernandez”
Age: 36

Age: 30

JOSE CASTRO, also known as “Chupa”
Age: 33

RODOLFO GARCIA, also known as “Martillo”
Age: 46

RUDY MARTINEZ, also known as “Bacalao”
Age: 38

GABRIEL PABON, also known as “Jose”
Age: 41

JAVIER RIVERA, also known as “Bobolo”
Age: 34

ASNEL TORRES, also known as “Leonel”
Age: 26




1 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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