Guyana-to-JFK drug ring busted in police operation

By Courtney Dentch

Kimberly Brown and her common-law husband, Cleon Earle, of 97-24 219th St. in Queens Village, were charged last month with working with at least three baggage handlers at Kennedy Airport as well as gang members in Brooklyn and Guyana to transport and sell $75 million worth of cocaine a year, Kelly said.

“This intense and complex investigation is a prime example of the type of dedicated work performed everyday by the men and women of the New York Police Department,” the commissioner said in a statement. “In addition, this case demonstrates the positive results of cooperation with other agencies to stop the flow of drugs originating far from New York from landing in our backyards.”

Thirteen people were arrested during the last week of February as part of the 18-month investigation dubbed “Operation Direct Connection,” Kelly said. They face charges of drug conspiracy, gun and drug possession and money laundering, he said.

Brown, a 31-year-old officer with the City Department of Corrections, and her boyfriend, Earle, 36, were arrested at their Queens Village home. Police executed a search warrant at the house and allegedly found a loaded .45 caliber handgun and a large cache of drugs, both of which were left in plain sight, Kelly said.

Brown, who joined the Corrections Department in 2001 and was assigned to Rikers Island, was suspended without pay, a police spokesman said. There is no evidence that she smuggled drugs to inmates there, Kelly said.

Brown and Earle are among nine of the defendants who are facing life in prison if convicted of the drug possession and sale charges against them, a police spokesman said. Four others were charged with drug conspiracy and could face 25 years in prison, the spokesman said.

The names and addresses of the other suspects were not released.

The case is being prosecuted in Brooklyn, after a routine search warrant involving drugs executed there helped officers string together information that cocaine distributors in Guyana have been sending the narcotic to the city for the past 10 years, Kelly said.

The Queens district attorney is not investigating the case, a spokeswoman said.

Kelly said the drugs were piled onto airplanes leaving Guyana in mail bags. The bag numbers and descriptions were then allegedly relayed to the New York distributors and in turn to at least three baggage handlers at Kennedy Airport, who would pull the bags off the planes before they went through customs, the commissioner said.

The gang allegedly sold more than 600 kilograms of cocaine a year, with a street value of more than $75 million, he said. Under search warrants, officers on this case seized $400,000 in cash, five vehicles, three guns, and 50 kilos of cocaine, Kelly said.

“The cooperation between my office's Major Narcotics Investigations Bureau and the NYPD's Brooklyn North Narcotics Division – Major Case Unit allowed law enforcement to take a major stride in blocking the supply of narcotics at the point where they enter the country,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

“I am committed to continue working with the NYPD in proactive investigations designed to stop the flow of drugs before they poison our neighborhoods.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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