Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in New York, and Dermot Shea, Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing of an indictment today charging eight individuals with participating in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in the vicinity of Times Square. JOHNNY PEREZ, a/k/a “Ghost,” AARON STARKS, a/k/a “Duke,” SEKOU SIMPSON, a/k/a “Tre,” FRED JOHNSON, a/k/a “Trinny,” DAVON MIAL, a/k/a “Smooth,” and DONNELL BRUNS, a/k/a “Mac,” were arrested on Monday evening in the New York area, and will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses. FRAYVON YOUNG, a/k/a “Harlem” and ROBERT MASON remain at large. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, the defendants operated a veritable 24-hour open-air bazaar for the sale of crack cocaine in Times Square. We recall the bad old days of a much seedier Times Square that was unwelcoming, and we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those days remain just a memory.”
HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said: “This crew gave new meaning to the slogan for New York City as the ‘city that never sleeps,’ by allegedly operating a 24-hour drug distribution ring. Working in shifts nearly around the clock, they preyed on the addictions and vulnerabilities of others. HSI New York and our partners at the NYPD worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to ensure that those arrested today will face the full weight of our justice system and be held accountable for the actions of their criminal enterprise.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said: “Our officers work night and day to keep every corner of New York free from the scourge of illegal narcotics, including in the crossroads of the world. Today’s federal indictment highlights the continuing commitment our NYPD investigators, prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of New York and law enforcement partners have to that continuing mission.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court and in other court papers and proceedings:
Between at least December 2019 and August 2021, the defendants sold crack cocaine nearly around-the-clock in the vicinity of 43rd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, near Times Square. One ‘shift’ arrived in the late morning and made sales through the late afternoon, and then other defendants arrived and sold through the evening and nighttime. Although there was no set composition of defendants for the two shifts, defendant AARON STARKS was often present and overseeing the first shift, and defendant JOHNNY PEREZ was often present and overseeing the second shift.
An undercover law enforcement officer purchased quantities of crack cocaine from the defendants on dozens of occasions, including multiple purchases from each defendant. Law enforcement surveillance showed nearly continuous sales from the late morning through the nighttime and shift changes. In addition, surveillance video from the vicinity of 43rd Street and 8th Avenue showed the defendants conducting hundreds of hand-to-hand sales of crack cocaine. For example, during a period of 11 days in March and April 2021, the defendants conducted more than 650 hand-to-hand sales. In January 2020, law enforcement officers arrested STARKS in the Times Square area and seized from him approximately 312 capsules of crack cocaine and 52 twists of crack cocaine.
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PEREZ, 37, of the Bronx, New York, STARKS, 36, of the Bronx, SIMPSON, of Brooklyn, New York, JOHNSON, 43, of Manhattan, MIAL, 32, of the Bronx, YOUNG, 34, of the Bronx, MASON, 39, of the Bronx, and BRUNS, 42, of the Bronx, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of crack cocaine. That charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI and the NYPD.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Christy Slavik and Kedar S. Bhatia are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.