BROOKLYN, NY. - A superseding indictment was unsealed Wednesday, February 9, 2010, in federal court in Brooklyn charging five members of a Staten Island-based crack and powder cocaine distribution network with narcotics and firearms offenses. The defendants appeared at noon today before United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn.
The indictment and arrests were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John P. Gilbride, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Field Division, James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).
The defendants are each charged with, among other offenses, conspiring to distribute crack and powder cocaine, and using and carrying firearms in furtherance of their drug trafficking conspiracy. As detailed in the superseding indictment and other filings with the court, the defendants sold both wholesale and retail quantities of crack and powder cocaine in Staten Island over the past ten years and used violence, and the threat of violence, to protect their trafficking operations. For example, in 2002, the defendant Benito Il Defonso, a leader of the group, allegedly conspired to murder a witness whom he believed intended to testify against co-defendant Andre Collier in connection with an earlier shooting. More recently, in 2008 and 2009, the defendants used members of the Bloods street gang to protect multiple narcotics stash houses they operated in the Arlington Terrace Apartments. On September 18, 2009, following the execution of a search warrant at a stash house operated by the defendant Dion Nelson, law enforcement agents seized four loaded firearms, two bulletproof vests, numerous rounds of ammunition, and quantities of narcotics and drug paraphernalia.
The charges contained in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Enforcement agents seized four loaded firearms, two bulletproof vests, numerous rounds of ammunition, and quantities of narcotics and drug paraphernalia.
The indictment is the product of an ongoing investigation into criminal activity on the north shore of Staten Island, which has resulted to date with the filing of federal narcotics and firearms charges against more than 25 individuals.
“As alleged in the indictment and related court filings, these defendants are members of a long-standing, armed drug ring that has wrecked havoc in Staten Island for years,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We are grateful for the continuing cooperation of the Office of the District Attorney for Richmond County in connection with this investigation and prosecution.”
“Time and time again law enforcement has seen violence associated with drug trafficking. As alleged, this investigation identified a drug organization that used guns and intimidation in order to further their illegal drug sales for one reason only, to make a profit,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Gilbride. “These arrests exemplify that law enforcement will not tolerate drug trafficking and the associated violence. We are determined to provide safe communities for the residents of New York City.”
“This investigation targeted allegedly violent individuals engaged in destructive patterns of behavior, including drug trafficking and violence,” said ICE-HSI Special Agent in Charge Hayes. “We are pleased to be working closely with our law enforcement partners and remain dedicated to bringing this type of criminal activity to a halt in our communities.”
“The five individuals arrested and charged today allegedly sold crack and cocaine and used violence to further their drug trade. As reflected in documents filed with the court, one defendant even conspired to murder a witness he believed intended to testify about an earlier shooting,” said NYPD Commissioner Kelly. “I commend the NYPD detectives, DEA and ICE agents, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work in bringing the defendants to justice.”
If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentences of life imprisonment. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Daniel Silver, and Zainab Ahmad.
This investigation was led by the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of DEA, NYPD, the United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, ICE-HIS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police the United States Marshal Service and the United States Attorney’s Office. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative.
Andre Collier, Age: 30
Benito Il Defonso, Age: 34
Steven Il Defonso, Age: 32
Alexandra Klein, Age: 32
Dion Nelson, Age: 31