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Feds hit L.E.S. drug ring
Federal agents and New York Police Department officers teamed up to bust 12 members of a drug ring that for, at least five years, had operated in three Lower East Side buildings, including the one in which Police Officer Brian Groves was shot in July.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on Dec. 20 that the alleged dealers had been hit with narcotics trafficking and firearm charges that all carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Thirteen members were officially charged, but one remains at large.
According to the U.S. attorney, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the N.Y.P.D., the drug ring was run by Richard Franco, 34, and was based in buildings at 154 Broome St., 410 Grand St. and 64 Essex St.
The ring’s members are all accused of possessing and distributing more than 280 kilograms of crack cocaine, more than five kilograms of cocaine and an unspecified quantity of oxycodone. Five members, including Franco, also face the related firearm possessions charges, which also carry a penalty of life in prison.
The building at 64 Essex St., known as the Seward Park Extension, was the site of the July shooting in which Groves was hit with a single bullet while in pursuit of an unknown man during a patrol of the building’s stairwells. Groves survived because of his bulletproof vest.
While the gunman remains unknown, law enforcement authorities have since recovered and identified the gun that was allegedly fired at Groves.
It was the aftermath of that shooting that sparked the investigation into the L.E.S. drug ring, officials said.
Over the course of the investigation, two undercover police officers made about 25 buys of cocaine and crack cocaine from various members of the ring. Officials also alleged that the members and their associates conducted hand-to-hand transactions of cocaine, crack cocaine and oxycodone pills in the aforementioned Lower East Side buildings, as well as throughout the surrounding area. During at least some of these transactions, the ring’s members carried firearms, officials added.
‘Brick Burglar’ busted
Just minutes after he fled what may have been his last crime scene, police on Dec. 22 arrested the man they say burglarized at least seven West Village businesses over the past six weeks.
Adrain Longo, 35, is believed to have stolen a total of more than $2,500, police said, by striking overnight and using a brick or cinderblock to smash through the glass storefronts of each store. And although his simple method had been surprisingly effective — allowing him to elude capture even after he’d been spotted on several security tapes — Longo was, in the end, betrayed by his own trusty tool.
Officers spotted him on Bleecker St., between Seventh Ave. South and Grove St., around 2 a.m. on Saturday — identifying Longo based on both his appearance and the cinderblock he was brazenly carrying. When he was told to drop the block, the alleged serial burglar defiantly refused, according to the police report, and raised it in a sufficiently threatening manner to compel the officers to immediately apprehend him.
Once Longo was incapacitated, the officers found him to be in possession of property previously reported stolen — including several iPods — in addition to cash. Then, they were able to connect him with the reported break-in, minutes earlier, of Ristorante Rafele, at 29 Seventh Ave. South, just three blocks from the site of his arrest.
Longo allegedly stole cash and a bottle of Jameson whiskey from the restaurant after using his cinderblock to bust open the front door, police said.
He’s also accused of going on a burglary spree that began Nov. 12 and included five other restaurants and a clothing store. All but one of the targeted locations are on or near Seventh Ave. South.
Police said that, along with stealing cash from all of the establishments, and iPods from two of them, Longo strolled out with an entire cash register in his arms after hitting Leyla, a restaurant on Seventh Ave. South near Barrow St., on Nov. 20.
Drinks weren’t on him
He thought he was getting free drinks at the bar, but he ended up busted for a previous theft.
Cops showed up at Down the Hatch, at Jones and W. Fourth St., around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, after a bartender reported that Ronald Hunt, 48, was paying his tab with a credit card that didn’t belong to him.
One of the officers quickly got in touch with the card’s owner by phone, and learned that the plastic had in fact been stolen the night before. The owner also said that he’d been informed of multiple other unauthorized purchases that had been made with the card.
Hunt was arrested and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
Bathroom peeper pinched
One man’s pervy joyride was short-lived, after he was arrested for recording a video of women using the bathroom at a classy Italian restaurant on Dec. 20, according to police.
Around 10 p.m., an employee of Grano Trattoria, at 21 Greenwich Ave., told police that he caught Jose Ibarra-Hernandez, 35, sneaking out of the ladies’ room and quickly uncovered his scheme. Ibarra-Hernandez allegedly concealed a camera cell phone beneath the bathroom sink, facing the toilet, and set it to record before walking out.
The restaurant employee reported the incident to police, who quickly arrived to charge Ibarra-Hernandez with unlawful surveillance.
Three men were arrested early on Sat., Dec. 22, after they reportedly beat and robbed another man who said he he’d been working as a security guard outside the McDonald’s, at W. Third St. and Sixth Ave.
The victim, 25, told police that around 4:30 a.m. he asked Placido Saldivar, 21, Ramon Cervantes, 29, and Fernando Bautista, 24, to leave the fast-food joint after they’d created a disturbance. The three toughs refused, he said, and responded by repeatedly punching the guard and grabbing his two-way radio.
Saldivar, Cervantes and Bautista lingered long enough for cops to arrive on the scene before they could slip away.