By Christina Santucci
His nickname was “The Ghost” and not even the people he worked with knew that his home was in Rochdale Village, police and prosecutors said.
“He had the uncanny ability to keep his associates in the dark. No one knew where he lived, what phone number he used, what car he drove,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of 51-year-old James “Wall” Corley, who was among 45 people arrested as part of a 15-month investigation by the NYPD and the Queens DA’s office dubbed “Operation South Side.”
Officials said that of the 45 people arrested, more than a dozen people were allegedly leaders and members of two separate drug gangs that operated in southeast Queens.
In addition, the investigation resulted in the arrests of nearly 30 more people, who were charged with various narcotics-related offenses, officials said during a news conference at 1 Police Plaza.
The cousin of a young man murdered in South Jamaica Houses was also swept up and charged with weapons possession, the DA said.
Kelly said Corley got his start in southeast Queens as a member of the notorious “Supreme Team,” which operated during the crack epidemic of the 1980s.
Corley, who lives in Rochdale Village, allegedly led one drug gang that served customers in the South Jamaica Houses, the Baisley Houses, Rochdale Village and other neighborhoods in southeast Queens, the police commissioner said.
He was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, and police allegedly recovered cocaine, 10 vials of a common cocaine additive, 45 forged $5 bills and various drug paraphernalia during a search of his residence, authorities said.
Ten people, who authorities contended were members and associates of Corley’s crew, were among those arrested, investigators said.
Detective David Leonardi, from the NYPD’s Queens Gang Squad, described a coded language — “the supreme alphabet” — allegedly used by Corley’s group to quantify drugs and guns.
Police and prosecutors said members of a second drug gang called the South Side Bloods, which sold to customers in Baisley Gardens and other neighborhoods in southeast Queens, were also targeted in the Operation South Side investigation.
Authorities said 33-year-old Allen Mitchell, of South Jamaica, who was allegedly the drug supplier for the South Side Bloods, was arrested in January and charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance.
According to the Queens DA’s office, Mitchell, whose nickname is “Fat Boy,” pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a control substance in February and was sentenced to between 1 1/2 and three years in prison.
Investigators said four other men arrested, including one who allegedly was found in possession of two loaded guns, are also believed to be members of the South Side Bloods.
Operation South Side netted 1.5 kilos of cocaine, more than 50 decks of heroin, marijuana, about $70,000 and four handguns, and the two drug gangs grossed more than $15,000 per week, police and prosecutors said.
Several drug presses, which remove water or liquid from cocaine to make the bricks, were also recovered during the investigation, Kelly said. In addition, a cousin of murder victim Darryl Adams was arrested during the investigation and charged with an unrelated weapons possession charge after police said he was found with a Tech 9 submachine gun.
Authorities believe Donald Merritt, a cousin of Adams, who was shot and killed in the South Jamaica Houses in March, had planned to use the gun to get revenge for 18-year-old Adams’ death.
After Merritt was pulled over for allegedly failing to stop at a stop sign, police contend they found the large gun in the engine of the Nissan Altima he had been driving, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office.
During the news conference, Kelly also pointed to the Supreme Team as responsible for the 1988 fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed while sitting in his patrol car in South Jamaica.
“While Corley was not charged in the murder of Police Officer Byrne, generations of police officers will take no small satisfaction that an associate of his killer has been brought to justice,” Kelly said.
Police believe that with the arrest of Corley, the Supreme Team gang has been dismantled.
“We think this is the end of them,” Ryan said.