A twelve-count indictment was unsealed today in the United States District Court in Brooklyn charging seven defendants with crimes including conspiracy to distribute of heroin, crack cocaine, powder cocaine and marijuana, use and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug crime, and firearms trafficking. The defendants were arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The charges and arrests were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); Delano A. Reid, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF); William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD) and Thomas C. Krumpter, Acting Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD).
In response to rising violence in the area, the FBI, ATF, NYPD and NCPD conducted a joint investigation resulting in today’s charges against members of a Far Rockaway-based narcotics and firearms trafficking organization. As detailed in the detention memorandum filed today by the government, during the course of the investigation law enforcement agents monitored a court-ordered wiretap on a cellular telephone used by a leader of the organization which documented the defendants’ distribution of heroin and other narcotics. In one call, organization members discussed packaging a quantity of heroin for resale representing more than 1,500 individual doses with a retail value of more than $15,000. As part of the investigation, law enforcement agents and officers purchased from the defendants heroin representing some 2,500 individual doses and more than a dozen firearms, including two assault rifles. Today, in conjunction with the arrests, agents executed search warrants at three locations in Far Rockaway resulting in the seizure of heroin, firearms, scales and other narcotics paraphernalia.
The intercepted telephone calls also demonstrate the organization’s possession and sale of firearms and willingness to resort to violence to resolve drug disputes. For example, in a call intercepted on September 29, 2015, between a coconspirator and a narcotics customer, the customer recounted a previous incident in which the defendant Jose Perez threatened to shoot the customer over money owed to the organization. The coconspirator told the customer “I know he pulled a gun, but you played yourself, that’s why. . . . He did that because you owed me money. That’s why I told him not to shoot you.” In a call intercepted on September 30, 2015, in which defendant Jose Crespo and a coconspirator discussed their concerns about law enforcement activity in the area, Crespo confirmed that defendant Jermaine Stephenson was holding the organization’s firearms. Stephenson’s role as the holder of the organization’s firearms was corroborated in a separate recording made by a cooperating witness on September 11, 2015, in which a coconspirator described Stephenson as the organization’s “holster.” Most recently, in a recording made by a cooperating witness on November 11, 2015, a coconspirator informed the cooperating witness that he keeps a firearm “on standby” at his house and would be willing to use it to resolve a dispute the cooperating witness claimed to be having.
“This prosecution deals a fatal blow to a group allegedly responsible for funneling illegal guns and drugs into Far Rockaway,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “We are committed to dismantling such criminal organizations and removing the scourge of illegal guns and drugs – and the violence that ensues – from our neighborhoods and making our communities safe for their residents.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated, “Engaging in the illegal distribution of firearms and drugs is an extremely dangerous combination, one that promotes violent activity and degrades the core of our communities. The defendants’ alleged actions highlight the looming danger that’s imminent when criminals bring guns and drugs into our neighborhoods. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate these cases, work with our partners to disrupt and dismantle such activity, and minimize the threat these criminals pose to the innocent members of our community.”
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Reid stated, “Just as important as making these arrests and virtually dismantling this alleged criminal organization is the fact that the ATF and its law enforcement partners have drastically improved the quality of life in the Far Rockaway area. I am extremely thankful for the inter agency cooperation during the course of this investigation and am confident that the prosecution of these defendants will be swift and comprehensive. This group’s days of illegally dealing in heroin have come to an end.”
“Today’s arrests and indictments are the result of the coordinated efforts of law enforcement to stop the flow of illegal firearms and narcotics into Far Rockaway. I commend the hard work of the investigators involved in the case whose efforts resulted in these individuals being brought to justice,” said NYPD Commissioner Bratton.
“Crime has no boundaries and this case is an example of how partners in law enforcement utilized talented personnel and resources to bring these seven defendants to justice,” said Acting NCPD Police Commissioner Krumpter. “Today’s arrests should serve as a deterrent to criminals as we at the Nassau County Police Department are committed to working with our fellow law enforcement partners to ensure public safety.”
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the most serious offense, six of the defendants face maximum sentences of life imprisonment, and one defendant faces up to 20 years of imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by The Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Trowel is in charge of the prosecution.
JOSE CRESPO, also known as “Santana” and “San”
RAY JOHNSON, also known as “Moreno” and “Spoon”
JERMAINE STEPHENSON, also known as “Half”
ISMAEL DEVALLE, also known as “Ish”
GRACE JAEN, also known as “Gracie” and “Graciela”