District Attorney Vance and Police Commissioner Bratton Announce Indictments of Two Major Narcotics Rings in Washington Heights


June 25, 2015

16 Indictments Charging 18 Different Gangs Filed Since Formation of DA’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit

Defendant Information

Watch the Press Conference

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton today announced the indictments of 35 defendants for their roles in two separate Washington Heights narcotics trafficking organizations that possessed and sold cocaine and heroin. Two defendants are charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, also known as the “Drug Kingpin” statute, and five are charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, both class A-I felonies. In total, the two separate indictments charge 119 counts, including Conspiracy, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. [1] The indictments follow a year-and-a-half long investigation, including the use of court-authorized wiretaps and dozens of undercover buys, led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit with detectives from the NYPD’s Narcotics Borough Manhattan North and Gang Division.

“With these arrests, a 24-hour cocaine delivery service and an open-air drug market that have plagued the residents of Washington Heights are closed for business,” said District Attorney Vance. “The amount of criminal activity alleged in this indictment – centered on just a few city blocks – is staggering. For months, young children and their parents were forced to take detours on their way to school to avoid the activity detailed in these indictments. Law-abiding New Yorkers should not have to fear that their neighbors are selling dangerous drugs, nor the violence that comes hand-in-hand with the sale of illegal drugs. We will work with our partners in the NYPD to ensure that these arrests are not merely a temporary fix, but one of many steps taken to build a safer, healthier community.”

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said: “The scourge of drugs is real, look no further than the arrests made yesterday in Washington Heights. And the drugs the defendants are alleged to have distributed, like cocaine and heroin, can destroy the fabric of our city. As alleged, several of the defendants were entrepreneurial. In several circumstances the defendants even provided free samples of heroin to drive new business. We remain deeply committed to combating the sale of drugs wherever they may be. I would like to thank the Manhattan District Attorney for his partnership on this case and so many others.”

According to the indictments, beginning in April 2014, the defendants allegedly engaged in conspiracies related to the sale and possession of cocaine and heroin in Washington Heights, primarily between Saint Nicholas and Audubon Avenues from West 171st to West 180th Streets. 

First Conspiracy

According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, in a conspiracy charged in the first indictment, 21 defendants, primarily members of the Trinitarios, a New York-based gang comprised primarily of individuals of Dominican descent, allegedly sold crack cocaine and heroin on West 177th Street between Audubon and Saint Nicholas Avenues beginning in April 2014. EDICKSON GARCIA, a/k/a “Gordo,” MELVIN BELTRE, and GARIS RETANCES are accused of serving as key cocaine distributors managing the street dealers. The defendants are charged with selling crack cocaine to dozens of customers each day, with transactions ranging from $10 to $400.
    
Though the criminal organization is charged with primarily selling cocaine, the defendants allegedly gave samples of heroin to some of their customers, which led to expanded demand for that narcotic. Many sales are alleged to have happened in residential buildings located near the intersection of West 177th Street and Audubon Avenue. Buyers were directed into a basement staircase or inside the lobby of the apartments, often in plain view of a two elementary schools co-located at 586 West 177th Street, P.S. 115 Alexander Humboldt, and KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary.
    
Second Conspiracy

EDICKSON GARCIA and three co-defendants – JAVIER INFANTE, JULIO INFANTE, and CESAR CRUZ – are charged with acting as cocaine distributors in a second conspiracy alleged in the above indictment for primarily selling powdered cocaine on Audubon Avenue between West 178th and 179th Streets. Sales charged in this conspiracy ranged from $700 to $3,000 per transaction. 
    
Third Conspiracy
    
In a third conspiracy charged in a separate, second indictment, 11 defendants, some of whom are related, allegedly possessed and sold cocaine in and around Washington Heights beginning in June 2014. In total, the defendants are accused of selling more than $75,000 of powder cocaine over the course of six months through a delivery service in which the buyers would place orders by phone. 

Both ROBERTO GARCIA and NANCY GARCIA MUSTAFA are charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker; ROBERTO GARCIA is accused of serving as the organization’s director, supervisor, and “boss” for allegedly orchestrating the narcotics sales with his aunt, GARCIA MUSTAFA, out of an apartment on Saint Nicholas Avenue, between West 178th and 179th Streets. The nine additional defendants, including GARCIA MUSTAFA’s brother, RAFAEL GARCIA, are charged with working in shifts to arrange customer orders over the phone, as well as packing, delivering, and selling the products. Typically, the narcotics were delivered to customers outside of local commercial Dominican establishments, including restaurants and bakeries, whose owners and workers were not part of the alleged criminal activity. 
    
Manhattan District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit and Crime Strategies Unit

In June 2010, District Attorney Vance established the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit (VCEU) to prosecute violent organized street crime. Since its creation and including today’s case, the VCEU has filed 16 indictments against 18 street gangs and removed more than 900 illegal firearms from the streets of New York. VCEU works closely with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Crime Strategies Unit, which has become a national model for prosecutor’s offices around the country. CSU uses intelligence-driven prosecution strategies to identify crime “hot spots” and the people who are driving the crime in those areas. 

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office continues to remain actively involved in communities following large-scale gang prosecutions, and seeks to reduce youth violence through community engagement. In October 2011, District Attorney Vance launched Saturday Night Lights, a youth athletic and academic program. To date, Saturday Night Lights has served more than 4,000 boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18 at nine different locations across Manhattan. 

In July, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will open a new Saturday Night Lights site in Washington Heights offering free basketball, baseball, and soccer training every Saturday night, as well as academic tutoring and comprehensive social services support.

Manhattan District Attorney’s Washington Heights Office

Opened in March 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Washington Heights Office provides a convenient location for Northern Manhattan residents to speak with staff from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Located at 530 West 166th Street, Suite 6C, the Washington Heights Office is a vital link between community residents and the District Attorney’s Office, better enabling prosecutors to serve local residents. Since opening, the Washington Heights Office has hosted breakfasts with domestic violence advocacy organizations, as well as key partners and community stakeholders. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will be working with these same neighborhoods organizations and partners on an upcoming event for children in the immediate area later this summer. 

The Washington Heights Office joins the Harlem Office as branches of the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to offering direct assistance to members of Northern Manhattan communities. Members of the public are encouraged to come to the Washington Heights Office regardless of their immigration status or language needs; on-site Spanish language services and additional translation services are available. The Community Partnerships, Domestic Violence, Immigrant Affairs, and Witness Aid Services Units staff the Washington Heights Office on a rotating basis. 

Assistant District Attorneys Tiana Walton, Megan Joy, Kelly Rahn and Andrew Mercer are prosecuting the cases under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Christopher Prevost, Deputy Chief of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit, and Christopher Ryan, Chief of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit, as well as Executive Assistant District Attorney John Irwin, Chief of the Trial Division. Investigative Analysts Brendan Fallon and Jon Diver, Paralegals Henry Marley and Isabelle Glimcher, and Assistant District Attorney Chidinma Ume assisted with the investigation. 

District Attorney Vance thanked Police Commissioner Bratton and members of the NYPD’s  Narcotics Borough Manhattan North, including Inspector Charles McEvoy; Captains Paul Lichtbraun and Shawn Charlson; Lieutenants Anthony Ronda and Luis Pineiro; Sergeant Dominick DeSiervi; and Detectives Jose Sandobal, Leandro Castro, Martin Campos, Madeline Melendez, and Luis Ramos; as well as Manhattan Gang Squad Detectives Jaime Garcia and Harry Arocho. 

[1] The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court, including the indictments, and statements made on the record in court.