Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge

December 15, 2011

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-2906

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges 34 Members Of Bronx Drug Trafficking Crews With Distributing Crack Cocaine

MANHATTAN, NY. - Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement (DEA) Wilbert L. Plummer and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Raymond W. Kelly, the Police Commissioner of the City of New (NYPD), late yesterday announced charges against 34 individuals for conspiring to sell crack cocaine in and around two apartment buildings in the Bronx - the Allerton Avenue Co-(the “Coops”) and the Parkside Houses. In a coordinated takedown yesterday, 19 of the defendants were arrested. Eight of the defendants are already in custody on state charges, and seven defendants are still being sought.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Drug dealers infect neighborhoods with their presence and poison a community’s lifeblood - literally and figuratively. With these arrests, we are taking a positive step forward in improving the quality of life in at least two New York City buildings and the surrounding community. Together with our law enforcement partners, our commitment to cleaning up the streets of New York for its citizens is a top priority.”

Acting DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Wilbert L. Plummer said: “Over the past year and a half, DEA and our law enforcement partners have been investigating this cocaine distribution organization based in the Bronx. Crack cocaine abuse is deadly as well as the violence associated with drug trafficking. Those who live in the Allerton Avenue Co-ops and Parkside Houses should be able to live their lives without the fear of drug trafficking and gun violence.”

NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “As we saw this week with the murder of Police Officer Peter Figoski, illegal drugs fuel violence that all too often ends in tragedy. The individuals arrested this morning were responsible for distributing illegal drugs and plaguing a Bronx neighborhood with violence. I commend the NYPD’s Narcotics Bureau, our federal partners and the U.S Attorney’s Office for taking action and removing these dangerous individuals from our streets.”

As alleged in the Complaint, which was unsealed yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court:

The defendants are involved in a large-scale conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in and around the Coops and Parkside Houses. Since 2006, NYPD officers have made over 150 undercover purchases totaling approximately 500 grams of crack cocaine from the defendants and their co-conspirators.

According to the Complaint, Yackeem McFarlane controlled crack cocaine sales in and around the Coops and Parkside Houses, and crack dealers needed his permission before selling in the area. McFarlane and Elvin Skelton supplied crack to several dealers in the vicinity of the Coops and Parkside Houses; McFarlane set the price and Skelton created the crack cocaine by cooking powder cocaine. Bernard Miles, one of their suppliers, delivered powder cocaine to them once or twice a week. Armani Cummings acted as an enforcer for McFarlane and Skelton. Marquis Branch also supplied crack cocaine to McFarlane, as well as defendants Bryan Rhodes, Allen Colon, Jamel Wright, and Charles Matthews. Branch typically carried large amounts of cash and was protected by other crack dealers in the neighborhood.

In addition, McFarlane is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities at the Coops and Parkside Houses.

The 19 defendants arrested yesterday morning were presented in Manhattan federal court later in the afternoon. Matthews, Cummings, Colon, Carlos Ponce, Richard Polite, Faheem Taylor, Justin Freytes, and Leche Cornish are already in custody on state charges. McFarlane, Benny Monday, Christopher Nwanko Bryan Rhodes, Verleria Thomas, Joanne Dortch And Velma Harris remain at large. The charges against each defendant and the corresponding maximum potential penalties are outlined in a chart attached to this press release.

During the investigation, which spanned several years, federal and local law enforcement agencies, working with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, used undercover officers and information from cooperating witnesses to infiltrate the drug trafficking organization. Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, NYPD and the New York State Police, and the NYPD Narcotics Borough Bronx. He also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service. He added that the investigation is continuing.

The prosecution of these cases is being overseen by the Office's Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Ferrara, Hadassa Waxman, and Russell Capone are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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