By Tien-Shun Lee
Five drug crews based in Howard Beach were indicted last week in an undercover investigation known as “Operation Beach Boys” that netted Richard Maldone, who plays a gangster on “The Sopranos,” the Queens district attorney said.
Twenty-nine suspected “wannabes” were charged with dealing drugs, DA Richard Brown said, including 22 who live in Howard Beach. The rest are from Woodhaven, Ridgewood and Long Island.
“These groups dealt in a wide variety of drugs and could move large quantities,” New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told a news conference in Manhattan last Thursday. “They had money and status and seemed to get away with anything. Today these men are behind bars. Their days of drug dealing and easy money are over. Their crews have been wiped out.”
Maldone, 40, who lives part time in Long Beach, L.I., and part time in Miami, was charged with buying ketamine, an animal tranquilizer that produces a feeling of euphoria, for personal use and offering it to a police officer free of charge, Brown said.
Maldone plays mobster Albert Barese in the HBO Mafia drama “The Sopranos.”
Another defendant, Christopher Carneglia, 31, of 84-18 163rd Ave. in Howard Beach, is the son of reputed Gambino capo John Carneglia, Brown said. He was charged with acting as an enforcer for one of the five identified drug crews, according to the DA.
Between March 10, 2001 and March 1, 2003, 66 separate sales of controlled substances were allegedly made by various members of the drug crews, Brown said.
The drug crews allegedly sold cocaine for up to $1,200 an ounce, marijuana for up to $3,800 a pound, larger-sized Ecstasy tablets, known as “cookies and cream,” for up to $10 a tablet, regular-sized Ecstasy tablets for up to $8, Vicodin tablets for up to $5, and ketamine for up to $75 a vial, Brown said.
“It is alleged that the ‘wannabe’ drug crews operated on the fringe of organized crime in Gambino mob turf in Queens County and that two of them reaped windfall profits of over $1 million a year,” said Brown.
Kelly said many young people in Howard Beach, where most of the defendants lived, looked up to the drug crew members who led indulgent lifestyles, dining in expensive restaurants, driving luxury vehicles and hanging out in Manhattan clubs and in the Hamptons.
Many of the defendants also worked out at a health club on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach and visited a tanning salon on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, said Brown.
“The dealers had a total disregard for the law,” Kelly said. “One of the main suppliers, 22-year-old Sean Maguire, said, ‘We’re not afraid of the cops. We worry about him,’” referring to a member of the Gotti family who dominated the Gambino mafia.
Leaders of drug crews were identified as Marcus Carrasquillo, 26; Joseph Dipierro, 20; Sean Maguire, 22; and Salvatore Nardone, 26, all of Howard Beach, as well as Nazih Nassar, 30, of Ridgewood.
As part of the investigation, which began in January 2001 after Police Department detectives received information about an illegal shipment of drugs, law enforcement officers obtained eavesdropping warrants and tapped some of the defendants’ cell phones, Brown said.
Most of the defendants were not regularly employed and lived at home with their parents, Brown said.
In the case of Maldone, Brown said, “When you get a young man who has a great career getting involved in this, it’s very troublesome and it’s sad.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.