Nine members of Far Rockaway drug trafficking gang busted following lengthy undercover operation: DA

Loaded firearms, including ghost guns, were seized along with a kilo of cocaine Wednesday during court-authorized raids at three Far Rockaway locations.
Photo courtesy of the DA’s office

Members of a Far Rockaway drug and gun trafficking operation were indicted following a six-month investigation that included a series of undercover drug buys and the tracking of several defendants’ phones resulting in the seizure of 10 firearms, including ghost guns, and a kilo of cocaine, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Thursday.

An additional four defendants are being prosecuted on weapons and drug paraphernalia charges in connection to the operation following the execution of search warrants.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said that long-term investigations resulting in seizures and prosecutions are reasons why there are significant declines in major crimes. File photo by Mark Hallum

“Long and complex investigations are essential to getting guns and drugs off our streets,” Katz said. “The resulting seizures and prosecutions are one of the most important reasons why we are seeing significant declines in major crimes.”

According to the charges, in August 2023, a joint investigation by the Queens District Attorney’s office and the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Division was launched into the sale of firearms and narcotics in the Far Rockaway area. A total of 16 buys of cocaine and drugs took place involving an undercover officer and five of the defendants resulting in the seizure of drugs with a street value of $50,000.

One of the defendants was seen on surveillance video selling drugs in the lobby of the Gateway Apartments housing complex located at 15-02 Mott Ave. in the Bayswater section of Far Rockaway.

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, law enforcement officials executed search warrants at three residences in Far Rockaway, arrested the five indicted defendants and four additional defendants and seized a cache of weapons including a loaded 40-caliber firearm, a loaded 9 mm Taurus, and a loaded, defaced Glock 19 with a high-capacity magazine.

“The charges stemming from our methodical investigation demonstrate the NYPD’s unwavering commitment to investigating and arresting anyone who dares to pedal illegal drugs and guns on the streets of New York City,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “Disrupting and dismantling alleged criminal networks such as this is key to our overall public safety mission, and we thank our colleagues in the office of the Queens district attorney for their continued partnership.”

The nine co-defendants named in the indictment are all listed as residents of Far Rockaway. Jermaine Wilkinson-Morgan, 19, Nashawn Wilson, 22, Carlos Menendez, 42, Christopher Jennings, 18, and Reynaldo Rojas, 33, were arraigned on a 55-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and weapons charges.

If convicted, Wilkinson-Morgan faces up to 10 years in prison while his co-defendants each face up to 20 years in prison. Three of the indicted individuals were arraigned Wednesday before Queens Supreme Court Justice Ira Margulis, who ordered them to return to court on Feb. 8. The remaining defendants are awaiting arraignment.

Four additional Far Rockaway residents were charged in a criminal complaint, including Matthew Wilson, 33, Mahlachi Parham, 22, Zabdiel Lucas, 25, and Dontae Soto, 20. They each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, according to the DA’s office.

“We will not back down from the hard work or the fight,” Katz said. “Thanks to our partnership with the NYPD, whose officers put themselves in harm’s way, the drugs and guns seized as part of this investigation will not be used to harm anyone.”