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Drifting Away In Handcuffs

Alleged Drag Racers Rode Through Park

Three Queens men and one Manhattan resident have been charged with reckless endangerment and other charges for allegedly drifting-a style of driving that combines highspeeds and sideways skidding in a Flushing Meadows-Corona Park parking lot before a crowd of spectators.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown identified the defendants as Kareem Ali, 26, of 103rd Avenue, and Michael Mahabir, 27, of 131st Avenue, both in Richmond Hill; Joel Santiago, 36, of 69th Place in Maspeth; and Darren Tang, 24, of Monroe Street in Manhattan.

They were arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Elisa Koenderman on Oct. 26 on criminal complaints charging them with second-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving, speed contests and races and failure to comply with directions. Additionally, Ali is also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

The defendants, who face up to a year in jail if convicted, were released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to next appear in court on Jan. 13, 2015.

Brown stated that the New York City’s 311 system received a total of 66 calls from area residents complaining about excessive noise prior to the arrests. In the more than five weeks since the defendants were arrested there has not been a single noise complaint phone call from the neighborhood.

“Cars are not toys. Driving at high speeds and intentionally skidding a roughly 3,000-pound vehicle, especially where spectators are gathered, is dangerous and can result in tragedy,” Brown said. “Following a number of noise complaints from neighborhood residents, the police responded and shut down this illegal and potentially deadly activity. The vehicles have been seized and the drivers have been charged.”

“These individuals placed innocent bystanders in danger by operating vehicles recklessly and at high speeds which prompted residents to contact the police,” added Police Commissioner William Bratton. “The New York City Police Department, along with the Queens District Attorney’s Office, will continue to address crime conditions which needlessly endanger lives and threaten the quality of life in our communities.”

According to the criminal complaints, the defendants were all driving modified vehicles. Mahabir was in a 1990 Nissan 240SX. Tang drove a yellow Hyundai. Santiago had a 2004 black Subaru Impreza and Ali was in a 2005 Lexus.

The defendants were allegedly observed drifting and doing doughnuts (making circles on the pavement with tire skid marks). The drivers are alleged to have nearly caused the vehicles to strike other vehicles and stationary objects in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s Meadow Lake parking lot. All the vehicles have been impounded.

The investigation was conducted by Police Officers Abigail Soto, David Russo and David Meo of the 110th Precinct, under the supervision of Sgt. Matthew Starrantino and Lt. Louis LeBlanc, and under the overall supervision of Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson.

Assistant District Attorney Stephen M. Dixon-Gordon is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Oscar W. Ruiz, deputy bureau chief of the District Attorney’s Special Proceedings Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Anthony M. Communiello, bureau chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Investigations Division Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Investigations Division Linda M. Cantoni.

It was noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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