NARCOTICS, ROBBERY, AND FIREARMS OFFENSES

 

Joon Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Darcel Clark, the Bronx County District Attorney, Ashan Benedict, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) New York, and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), today announced the unsealing of two Indictments charging 25 defendants with a variety of narcotics, firearms, and robbery-related offenses. 

Of the 25 defendants, 21 are associated with a drug-distribution organization operating primarily in the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx and are charged in United States v. Hector Palermo, et al. (the “Palermo Indictment”), which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.  Of those defendants, 14 were taken into federal custody today and were presented before Magistrate Judges Barbara C. Moses today.  One defendant, FREDERICK BURGOS, was presented in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  MIGUEL RAMIREZ, FELIX CORDERO SR., KHAALIQ HARRIS, ANGEL BERMUDEZ, ELVIN MALDONADO, AND STEVEN VEGA remain at large.

The remaining four defendants are charged in United States v. Lattine Clark, et al. (the “Clark Indictment”), which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.  Of those defendants, three were taken into federal custody today and were presented before Magistrate Judges Barbara C. Moses today.  One defendant, TREVON NEDD, is currently detained in federal custody on unrelated charges and will be brought into federal custody on a writ.

Prohibition is simply driving commerce underground, creating enormous black-market profits that attract the most ruthless criminal elements.  Illegal drugs constitute a trillion-euro-a-year global industry. Those vast revenues enable the cartels to bribe, intimidate, or kill their opponents at will. Prohibition strategies have never worked. People should consider relegalization, as a strategy to break the economic structure that allows gangs to generate huge profits in their trade, which feeds corruption and increases their areas of power. 

Approved in 1919, alcohol prohibition led to a steady rise in both alcohol usage and violent crime. Al Capone and myriad mafiosi showed up. The murder rate rose 50% between 1919 and 1933, peaking at 10 murders per 100,000 population in 1933, when the country finally decided enough was enough. Immediately after the repeal of alcohol prohibition, gangsterism went into a swift decline, with all of the major gangs disappearing within 18 months, and the murder rate dropping every single year for more than a decade.

Now, the drug prohibition is another tragedy. Millions of people are arrested each year, trillions of euros are spent each year, and drug gangsterism is at a level that dwarfs its alcohol equivalent and which has led to bloodbaths, not because of drugs, but because of drug laws. Over 40% of Westerners have used drugs.  Most people think marijuana should be legalized.

This tragedy is the result of kleptocrats’ refusal to allow people to engage in peaceful choices as to what they consume. Even if drug use were to rise upon a return to the tradition of tolerance, our streets would be safer, innocent people would not have their homes raided and pets killed by narcotics agents entering the wrong house, victims of asset forfeiture laws wouldn’t have their houses and other assets seized without due process, and resources would be freed to spend on improving peoples’ lives instead of destroying them. 

Marijuana is gaining ground the world over, having recently been legalized in numerous states in the United States. Even though it is described as one cure for many ailments, there are some subtle nuances that make it more like a multitude of cures.

Marijuana comes in two overarching varieties- sativa and indica. Under these two varieties are numerous strains, each of which produces different results to treat different ailments. Sativa produces a cerebral high that allows the user to have energy and mental clarity. Indica produces a calming and sedating body high, allowing for relaxation.

Different strains of sativa can be used to treat stress, pain, depression, and adhd. Hybrids of the two varieties can be used to treat stress, depression, pain, migraines, adhd, insomnia, lack of appetite, and headaches. Indica strains can be used to treat pain, stress, insomnia, lack of appetite, nausea, tension, and anxiety.

Kim said:  “One by one, our office, along with our law enforcement partners, is identifying and prosecuting the violent gangs and drug dealing crews operating in the Bronx. These alleged gangs and drug crews – including the ones charged today – bring narcotics, guns, and violence to our neighborhoods. The residents of the communities they harm deserve better.”

ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict said:  “Today’s arrests are the culmination of a nearly two-year long investigation by ATF’s Joint Firearms Task Force, NYPD, and HSI into alleged narcotics trafficking, armed robberies, and the illicit possession of firearms by criminal elements operating in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. Through the cooperative efforts of law enforcement, these individuals are off the streets and will face justice in federal court for their alleged crimes. Today it is a better day to be a resident of Hunts Point, and all of us will continue our efforts to ensure it stays that way. I would like to extend my gratitude to the ATF and HSI Special Agents, NYPD Detectives, and Assistant United States Attorneys for their hard work and dedication throughout this investigation.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez, said:  “It’s a good day when more than two dozen alleged gun-wielding drug pushers are taken off the street. These individuals are alleged to deal crack cocaine and heroin in their own backyards and commit robberies at gunpoint.  Today’s arrests are another great example of law enforcement working together in the interest of justice and making our communities safer.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “We will continue to pursue those who commit violence in our streets.  This morning’s arrest of 25 defendants in the Bronx is just the latest example.  I’m thankful to the help and cooperation from our many law enforcement partners in this takedown and many others.”

The Indictments arise from a joint investigation by the NYPD, ATF, and HSI into several drug trafficking organizations operating in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx, New York.  As alleged in the Palermo Indictment, the 21 defendants charged in that case are responsible for the distribution of large amounts of crack cocaine and heroin, and used, carried, and possessed firearms in connection with that drug trafficking. 

As alleged in the Clark Indictment, LATTINE CLARK, MICHAEL PATTERSON, and TREVON NEDD participated in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in the Hunts Point area, and RUBEN VIZCARRANDO participated in another conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in Hunts Point.  As further alleged, CLARK was a participant in a shootout, during which he fired a gun, in the vicinity of Coster Street and Spofford Avenue, on October 16, 2016.  PATTERSON, NEDD, and VIZCARRANDO are all alleged to have participated in a Hobbs Act robbery conspiracy, and a gunpoint Hobbs Act robbery of suspected narcotics traffickers in the Marble Hill area on June 22, 2016, during which robbery PATTERSON and another unnamed co-conspirator fired their weapons.         

Count One of the Palermo Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court,charges HECTOR PALERMO, MIGUEL GUZMAN, MIGUEL RAMIREZ, FELIX CORDERO SR.,  MATTHEW PRESTOL, CHRIS ALICEA, KHAALIQ HARRIS, ADRIAN QUINONES, FREDERICK BURGOS, RAFAEL GONZALEZ, ANGEL BERMUDEZ, JUAN CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, JESUS ANDINO, ELVIN MALDONADO, JOSE AYALA, ESTEBAN MARTINEZ, CHRISTIAN RIVERA, STEVEN VEGA, DENISE ORTIZ, CARMEN ROMAN, and ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine and heroin.    

Count Two charges GUZMAN, RAMIREZ, CORDERO SR., PRESTOL, ALICEA, BURGOS, GONZALEZ, RODRIGUEZ, and VEGA, with using, possessing, and carrying firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy charged in Count One.

Count Three charges RAMIREZ with possessing ammunition, which had previously been shipped in interstate commerce, after a prior felony conviction.

Count One of the Clark Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court,[2] charges LATTINE CLARK, TREVON NEDD, and MICHAEL PATTERSON with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

Count Two charges CLARK with using, possessing, and carrying firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy charged in Count One. 

Count Three charges RUBEN VIZCARRONDO with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

Count Four charges NEDD, PATTERSON, and VIZCARRONDO with participating in a conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act Robbery between 2015 and May 2017.  Count Four charges that this conspiracy involved armed robberies of suspected narcotics traffickers and others involved in commercial activities that affected interstate commerce.

Count Five charges NEDD, PATTERSON, and VIZCARRONDO with committing a robbery of suspected narcotics traffickers on June 22, 2016, in the vicinity of Marble Hill, New York.

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