NYPD retakes Travers Park from alleged drug gang

The basketball courts at Travers Park in Jackson Heights are safer after police bust members of a drug dealing street gang, according to the Queens DA.
Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

The NYPD has smashed a notorious street gang that has terrorized a Jackson Heights park for years following a long-term investigation.

Last week Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced a Queens County grand jury had indicted six purported members of the Always Bangin’ Kings gang for allegedly plotting to kill two rival gang members in December 2016 and that 11 individuals affiliated with the gang had been indicted or summarily arrested on charges of selling drugs in Elmhurst and Maspeth.

The NYPD investigation began last spring when an 18-year-old was stabbed with a Snapple bottle after seven to nine of the gang members attacked him on the basketball court at Travers Park on 77th Street. After making undercover drug buys in the park, police received wiretap authorization with the help of the Queens DA’s office.

According to the attempted murder indictment, defendants Francis Carias of East Elmhurst and Michael Aalil of Elmhurst are suspected of coordinating a hit against two rival Latin Kings.

“A long-term investigation, which included court-authorized wiretaps, is alleged to have thwarted the deaths of two individuals in Queens three months ago when an investigator allegedly overheard the defendants planning to kill rival gang members,” Brown said. “Fortunately for the victims, the defendants were arrested as they are alleged to have been lying in wait for their targets to enter a bar.”

As part of the takedown, three other suspected ABK gang members — two women and a man — were arrested last week and charged with gang assault and other crimes for a vicious attack on a man in a Woodside fast food restaurant. More than $55,000 in cash, vehicles, and cocaine was seized in the arrests and police say among the drugs being sold at Travers Park were pills containing fentanyl, a substance said to be as much as 25 times more potent than heroin.

“Rivalry among gangs in and around Travers Park have led to a spike in violence, making our streets less safe,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “We are not going to allow gangs to take over Travers Park, the only park in Jackson Heights. It is our park. I want to thank the police for bringing these violent individuals to justice, and for their special operations to fight gang activity, curb violence and making our streets safer.”

The DA also announced last week that 30 people were indicted in a credit card and identity theft ring based along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor following a two-year investigation. The ring was allegedly responsible for stealing the personal credit card information of hundreds of consumers and costing the individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than $3.5 million over the course of the alleged scheme. In addition to the arrests, four fake identification “mills” where the forged documents were manufactured have been closed down.

“This case provides yet another warning to the public that they must be diligent in the protection of their personal identifying information,” Brown said. “Sometimes that solution can be something so simple as having a locked mailbox, as the investigation revealed that, as part of their alleged scheme, the defendants ordered new credit cards for cardholders and plucked them out of the cardholders’ mailboxes when they were delivered.”

Police began investigating the ring in April 2015 using physical surveillance, intelligence gathering, and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping picking up conversations that had to be translated from Hindu, Punjabi, Urdu and Spanish.

Peralta’s 21st Century Gang Crime Bill passed the Senate Monday which would give prosecutors additional tools to combat such new-age crimes.

“Cybercrime is on the rise, but this bill will allow law enforcement to take gangs down more efficiently,” Peralta said. “The law has not kept up with technology and we must act to fight against these crimes more effectively.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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