A network of drug dealers and gun traffickers was smashed during a Wednesday morning raid at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced during an afternoon press conference with NYPD officials.
A group of 21 defendants were indicted by a Queens grand jury and are variously charged in five different indictments with allegedly running and/or possessing guns and dealing drugs in the Redfern Houses and surrounding neighborhoods between November 2019 and March 2021.
“Attorneys from my office and members of the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Division worked tirelessly for months, focusing our investigation where drugs and guns have been a toxic combination for far too long, made so by individual drivers of crime,” Katz said. “Police recovered firearms, cocaine, heroin, heroin laced with fentanyl and other illicit drugs during this operation.”
Utilizing surveillance techniques, undercover buys and other investigative tools, the district attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprise Bureau, working in conjunction with the Gun Recidivist Investigation Program, conducted a long-term investigation to uncover gun running and illicit narcotics sales in Queens. Katz said the investigation began in November 2019 with a court-authorized eavesdropping warrant on a cellphone belonging to defendant Antoine Nance, 35, of Almeda Avenue in Far Rockaway, who has been charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, conspiracy and other crimes.
Monitoring Nance’s calls led to the discovery of a network of two groups of alleged dealers in Far Rockaway. Law enforcement intercepted both narcotics and firearm-related communications between Nance and many other defendants.
“This investigation highlights our joint responsibilities in eradicating shootings, illegal firearms and the violence of the narcotics trade that tear at the fabric of life in our city,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “Our NYPD officers, with our partners in the Queens district attorney’s office, have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that those who live and work in the Far Rockaway neighborhood can be safe, and we embrace these charges as a measure of justice.”
According to the charges, calls and text messages between Nance and Kimiko Leonard, 34, of Linden Boulevard in Jamaica, allegedly revealed that a female defendant was Nance’s main drug supplier. On a monthly basis Leonard, who works as a conductor for the MTA, is alleged to have sold Nance his usual order of cocaine. The pair allegedly used code words to set up buys with Nance, texting her that “he needed to ride to 200 Street,” which actually meant he wanted to buy 200 grams of cocaine, according to the charges.
Results of the investigation identified Kasson Brown, 32, of Beach 19th Street in Far Rockaway, who is accused of being a top supplier of both cocaine and heroin in the region who, to avoid detection by law enforcement, used runners to sell drugs on the streets. Katz said Brown’s crew of runners allegedly branded their drugs, packing the heroin they sold into glassine envelopes stamped in red with the words “King of Death” along with a photo of the Grim Reaper. Tests on the substance within the envelopes revealed a mix of heroin, fentanyl and tramadol. At times, tests showed the substance was pure fentanyl.
The investigation also led to a Nov. 1, 2020, court-authorized search of the Redfern Avenue home of defendant Sehou Santiago, 32. Investigators allegedly recovered a Glock pistol, a high-capacity magazine, a loaded magazine, a laser sight, 114 grams of heroin and fentanyl and 269 grams of cocaine.
“My office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to make certain no community is held hostage to those who seek to profit from human misery,” Katz said.
During the investigation, one of the wiretap targets, Ernest Thomas, was shot and killed coming out of the Redfern Houses. The district attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau is still investigating that murder. Thomas had allegedly been acting in concert with defendant Pauletta Williams, 34, of Beach 54th Street in Far Rockaway, and conspiring with others in the case to sell narcotics, according to the DA’s office.