A Harlem school aide arrested in Astoria on Wednesday morning is tied to a major, multi-county drug ring busted this week, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Police say that at 8:45 a.m. on May 29, 26-year-old Nicholas Banks was arrested at the 114th Precinct stationhouse. He was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal sale of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy.
Banks is currently being held on $150,000 bail and is due to return to court on June 12. If convicted, Banks faces up to 20 years in prison.
Banks has been employed at Mott Hall High School in Harlem since September 2017 as a school aide. Sources familiar with the investigation said that there was a report of Banks allegedly selling drugs, which ultimately led to an investigation.
Reports say that when Banks was arrested, he was found with drugs and a gun in his possession.
“This alleged behavior is extremely troubling, and this school aide was immediately suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal matter,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
Banks’ arrest came in part of busting a major multi-county drug operation that was allegedly run by Banks with four other individuals. Manhattan residents William Linton, 52, Alex Garcia, 28, and Kelvin Alameda, 33, and Jamaica resident Pedro Rosado, 44, were each arrested in connection to the operation.
Linton and Garcia were arraigned alongside Banks on May 29 and are being held on $300,000 bond/$150,000 cash bail. They are both due to return to court, like Banks, on June 12 and face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
Rosado was arraigned on March 15 and charged with third-, fourth- and seventh-degree sale of a controlled substance and criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds. He was granted supervised release and is due to return to court on June 5. If convicted, Rosado faces up to nine years in prison.
Alameda was arraigned on charges first-, second-, third- and fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance on Jan. 30. He was held on $75,000 bond/$25,000 cash bail and is set to return to court on June 19. If convicted, Alameda faces up to 30 years in prison.
“The defendants in this case are alleged to have worked as a team to distribute cocaine, heroin and other illicit drugs within Queens County and beyond,” said acting District Attorney John M. Ryan. “One of the defendants is a trusted high school aide and basketball coach, who allegedly had an illegal firearm in his home. We are 100 percent committed to striking down drug dealers and will use the most aggressive and innovative tactics to track down and prosecute dealers who would flood our streets with drugs.”
According to charges, the NYPD’s Narcotics Borough Queens and the Queens District Attorney’s Narcotics Investigations Bureau began an investigation in July 2018 to look into a crew that was selling drugs in Queens and Manhattan – primarily in the Queens Village and South Jamaica areas of Queens County and in and around Washington Heights and Harlem in New York County. Utilizing various investigative techniques, including intercepting telephone calls, reviewing GPS location data and physical surveillance, five defendants were been charged in connection to the investigation.
Charges say that Linton was an alleged supplier and distributor providing narcotics to both Banks and Garcia, and in some instances, Linton allegedly sold drugs to Banks, who then allegedly re-sold the narcotics to Garcia, who distributed the product – mostly oxycodone pills – to Queens County buyers and to others. In March 2019, intercepted calls allegedly provided details of Banks, Linto and Garcia discussing buying and then selling 300 to 400 oxycodone pills.
Over the course of the 10-month investigation, undercover police allegedly bought nearly 70 grams of heroin, more than 360 grams of cocaine, more than 170 oxycodone pills from the defendants.
On May 29, police executed three court-authorized search warrants at three residences in Manhattan and allegedly recovered one defaced firearm, ammunition, more than a kilo of cocaine, over 1,500 oxycodone pills, 160 Xanax pills, marijuana and more than $28,000 in cash. The firearm – a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol – was allegedly found in the home of Banks in a closet in a black bag along with .380 caliber cartridges and 9mm cartridges.
“The investigation sends the powerful message that we will never tolerate illegal guns or drugs in any part of our City,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “Thorough and precise investigations such as this one, and close collaboration with our partners like the Queens District Attorney’s Office, are how we make our City safer and help people in the communities we serve.”
Updated at 3:40 p.m.