Feds bust another Mott Haven gang

Investigation ongoing into murder of gang leader

Several members and associates of a gang that the authorities say dealt heroin and crack in Morrisania were arrested on Jan. 17, in the latest in a series of high-profile busts of area drug dealers.

The 13 defendants are charged with selling the drugs to street-level customers, and with supplying it to other Bronx drug dealers, mainly in and around the John Adams Houses on Tinton Avenue.

As in other recent busts, authorities said collaboration between federal agents and NYPD cops helped bring about the arrests. Investigators say the sting started in June, when they began intercepting phone calls and text messages between members of the group. In addition, they say, an undercover agent was involved in “controlled buys” of crack and heroin.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the case “the latest example of law enforcement working together to keep our neighborhoods safe,” and vowed to continue fighting “drug trafficking crews who peddle their lethal product in our neighborhoods.”

Police commissioner Raymond Kelly compared the collaboration between local police and federal agents to a controversial city program.

“Just as the NYPD collaborates with landlords in our Clean Halls program to suppress drug dealing and its associated violence in privately-owned buildings in the Bronx, we collaborated with the FBI and Federal prosecutors to suppress drug trafficking in and around Bronx public housing in this case,” he said.

Building residents and civil liberties and civil rights organizations have complained that Clean Halls has led to heavy-handed tactics by the NYPD and police abuse of law-abiding tenants in low-income neighborhoods.

Four of the 13 defendants were already in custody on state charges before the arrests were announced. They have been transferred to a federal jail.

Officials add the bust was part of a wider investigation involving a murder in Highbridge in 2010. According to the indictment, a former member of the group, Jermaine Smalls, was also a suspect in the Highbridge homicide. But Smalls was himself shot and killed outside a Harlem nightclub on Oct. 24. Both of those murders remain under investigation.