The alleged gang turned Vermilyea Ave into a drug market that looked like “something out of the ’80s,” the NYPD’s chief of detectives said.
INWOOD, NY — Thirty-two locals are facing charges after police busted an alleged Inwood street gang this week. For more than a year, the gang has turned the stretch of Vermilyea Avenue between West 204th and West 207th streets into an open-air drug market, according to the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney (DA).
The gang sold crack cocaine in building lobbies and gated entrances of residential buildings, the DA said.
All 32 defendants are facing various charges related to the alleged drug-dealing scheme.
But police and prosecutors have also singled out two brothers — 44-year-old Jose Luperon and 42-year-old Omar Luperon — who they say served as the gang’s ringleaders. The brothers have been charged with “operating as a major trafficker” — also known as the “drug kingpin” statute, according to the DA.
“These arrests shutter an alleged criminal organization that pumped narcotics into a quiet residential neighborhood 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance said Wednesday. “As charged in the indictment, this highly structured trafficking ring operated out of just a few buildings on one Inwood block. Now, thanks to the NYPD and my Office’s prosecutors, these residents will no longer have to sidestep drug deals in order to reach their homes, schools and places of worship.”
Wednesday’s indictment came after a longterm investigation into Inwood’s alleged trafficking ring. Police wiretapped suspects’ phones and bought drugs from them while posing as customers, according to the DA.
The trafficking ring is believed to have operated from Aug. 29, 2015 to Dec. 26, 2016. Its alleged members are worked in shifts to sell drugs 24 hours per day on Vermilyea Avenue, the DA said — during which time they made more than 100 crack cocaine sales, including more than two dozen sales to undercover NYPD detectives.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said 29 search warrants were issued early Wednesday morning, and 21 arrests made in total. Boyce said the stretch of Vermilyea Avenue controlled by the gang looked like “something out of the 1980s.”
Jose Luperon’s duties allegedly included getting a hold of the cocaine supply; packaging it; processing it; distributing it; monitoring all drug sales; and distributing the profits among members of the gang.
Jose’s brother Omar, along with a 35-year-old man named Juan Flores, allegedly served as the gang’s supervisors. And two other men — Steve Rojas, 34, and Xavier Vargas, 29 — are accused of serving as lower-level managers who oversaw the gang’s seven street sellers and 15 “steerers.” These steerers were in charge of making street-level purchases, steering customers to drug sales and acting as lookouts, according to the DA.
A full list of the defendants’ names was not immediately released.
“As alleged, this narcotics trafficking organization operated in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, distributing narcotics around the clock,” NYC Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “But following a precise and focused investigation, members of this enterprise were identified, investigated and arrested this morning. I commend the prosecutors and investigators involved in this case who remain dedicated to both the justice system and the people of the City of New York.”