INWOOD, NY — Neighborhood elected officials held a press conference Monday on the corner of Vermilyea Avenue and West 204th Street to thank police for taking down a 32-member street gang accused of turning the area into an open-air drug market.
Newly sworn-in Congressman Adriano Espaillat was joined by City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Marisol Alcantara and State Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa and law enforcement representatives. The politicians said that the area had been
"This block has been the source of many complaints for years and years by local residents that often complain about drug sales happening in their lobby, in their corner, right across from IS 152 — an intermediate school a block from here." Espaillat said Monday.
"We want to thank Commissioner O'Neill for his efforts in making sure that some peace and tranquility is brought to this neighborhood."
On Wednesday 32 alleged members of a street gang which sold crack cocaine on Vermilyea Avenue between West 204th and West 207th streets were indicted for various crimes including conspiracy and criminal sale of a controlled substance. Of the 32 people indicted, 21 were arrested and have pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
Two brothers — Jose and Omar Luperon — were charged with "operating as a major trafficker" — also known as the "drug kingpin" statute, according to an indictment from the Manhattan District Attorney's office (DA).
The gang sold crack cocaine in building lobbies and gated entrances of residential buildings, according to the DA.
"I applaud law enforcement officials for their diligent work in helping to rid our community of individuals who were adding to a rampant drug culture. This latest bust signifies our commitment to maintain public safety and quality of life for the hard working men and women of this district," De La Rosa said in a statement.
Wednesday's indictment came after a longterm investigation into Inwood's alleged trafficking ring. Police wiretapped suspects' phones and bought drugs from them while posing as customers, according to the DA.
The trafficking ring is believed to have operated from Aug. 29, 2015 to Dec. 26, 2016. Its alleged members are worked in shifts to sell drugs 24 hours per day on Vermilyea Avenue, the DA said — during which time they made more than 100 crack cocaine sales, including more than two dozen sales to undercover NYPD detectives.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said 29 search warrants were issued early Wednesday morning, and 21 arrests made in total. Boyce said the stretch of Vermilyea Avenue controlled by the gang looked like "something out of the 1980s."
Nine of the accused gang members appeared in court on Jan. 9 for bail hearings, according to the Manhattan DA's office. On Jan. 13 another group of accused gang members — including the Luperon brothers — are set to appear in court for bail hearings, court records show.