They drove luxury sports cars, rode yachts and wore diamond-encrusted jewelry — secured through millions of dollars obtained from heroin sales, robbery, extortion and murder in Brooklyn and Queens.
Now, nine alleged members of a Bushwick-based street gang find themselves facing a federal grand jury indictment revealed on Sept. 6 for a history of gang violence and drug dealing.
Five of the indicted suspects were arrested on Sept. 5 and 6: Brooklyn residents Maurice Brown, 27, Jaquan Cooper, 30, and Tyquan Griem, 28; Norman Marrero, 35, who was arraigned in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Brooklyn resident Lance Goodwin, 29, who was picked up in North Carolina.
Four other alleged gang members from Brooklyn were previously arrested for their roles in the drug ring and now face additional charges in the indictment: Luis Lopez, 36, Jason Pantojas, 30, Miguel Pantojas, 31, and Peter Vasquez, 31.
According to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, the “Bushwick Crew” were part of a massive heroin trafficking ring connected to Mexican drug cartels. The suspects allegedly imported and sold millions of dollars of the potent powder as well as synthetic fentanyl, then turned around and spent the proceeds on luxury cars, yachts, jewelry and more.
Donoghue said that the Bushwick Crew members “beat, tortured and killed in furtherance of their heroin trafficking,” and to protect each other.
In one instance, five of the indicted suspects — Brown, Vasquez, Lopez, and brothers Jason and Miguel Pantojas — participated in the March 5, 2013, murder of Gary Lopez and Rudy Superville, both of whom had attempted to rob a heroin distributer in Brooklyn. After killing the men, the suspects brought their bodies to Spring Creek Park on the Brooklyn/Queens border, soaked them in gasoline and set them on fire.
In another incident, alleged gang member Griem shot and killed Kelvin Johnson after getting involved in a fight that broke out on Sept. 20, 2014, at a nightclub in Queens.
Along the way, the gang members were proud to boast their luxurious lifestyles on social media. Prosecutors obtained numerous images from Facebook and Instagram showing the alleged gang members partying on yachts or showing off Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and Mercedes Benzes which they purchased. One suspect posted a photo showing him with his mother while standing next to the Porsche Carrera he had bought for her.
Over the last three years, an ongoing investigation into the Bushwick Crew resulted in more than 25 individuals being charged, Donoghue said.
“The behavior this crew engaged in will never be tolerated by New Yorkers, and I think our federal partners at the FBI and the Eastern District for strengthening the NYPD’s efforts to rid our streets of these criminals,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “We will remain relentless in our mission to dismantle groups like this by precisely focusing on the drivers of violence in our city, and we will see their cases through to appropriate and meaningful prison sentences — those who live and work in all of our neighborhoods deserve nothing less.”
Brown, Goodwin, Griem, Lopez, Jason and Miguel Pantojas and Vazquez each face life sentences in federal prison if convicted of the charges against them; Cooper and Marrero could face between 17 years to life behind bars if they’re found guilty of the gun and drug charges against them.