New York City prosecutors say they are vowing to prevent Times Square from devolving back into the “bad old days” after charging a group of men for running a “24-hour open-air bazaar for the sale of crack cocaine” there.
Six of the suspects were taken into custody Monday while two remain at large, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York. Prosecutors allege the operation lasted between at least December 2019 and this August along 43rd St and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, in the vicinity of the Crossroads of the World.
“As alleged, the defendants operated a veritable 24-hour open-air bazaar for the sale of crack cocaine in Times Square,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “We recall the bad old days of a much seedier Times Square that was unwelcoming, and we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those days remain just a memory.”
Prosecutors, citing an indictment unsealed Tuesday, alleged that “one ‘shift’ arrived in the late morning and made sales through the late afternoon, and then other defendants arrived and sold through the evening and nighttime.”
“An undercover law enforcement officer purchased quantities of crack cocaine from the defendants on dozens of occasions, including multiple purchases from each defendant,” the Attorney’s Office said. “In addition, surveillance video from the vicinity of 43rd Street and 8th Avenue showed the defendants conducting hundreds of hand-to-hand sales of crack cocaine.
“For example, during a period of 11 days in March and April 2021, the defendants conducted more than 650 hand-to-hand sales,” the Attorney’s Office added.
The suspects were identified as Johnny Perez, Aaron Starks, Sekou Simpson, Fred Johnson, Davon Mial, Donnell Burns, Frayvon Young and Robert Mason. The men ranged in age from 32 to 43 and went by nicknames including “Ghost”, “Smooth” and “Duke”, prosecutors say.
Young and Mason remain at large and in January 2020, police had arrested Starks in the Times Square area and “seized from him approximately 312 capsules of crack cocaine and 52 twists of crack cocaine,” the Attorney’s Office said.
All the men are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of crack cocaine – which carries a minimum 10-year sentence and maximum life sentence.
“This crew gave new meaning to the slogan for New York City as the ‘city that never sleeps,’ by allegedly operating a 24-hour drug distribution ring,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh said in a statement. “Working in shifts nearly around the clock, they preyed on the addictions and vulnerabilities of others.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea added that “our officers work night and day to keep every corner of New York free from the scourge of illegal narcotics, including in the crossroads of the world.”
Fox News has reached out the NYPD for further comment.
NYC prosecutors fighting to prevent ‘bad old days’ after bust of Times Square ‘24-hour open-air drug bazaar’