Authorities busted a “24-hour open air bazaar” in Times Square where a group of “street urchins” brazenly peddled crack cocaine for nearly two years, officials said Tuesday.
The eight-man ring is believed to have netted more than $10,000 a week fueled by ’round-the-clock shifts at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to the NYPD and federal authorities, who unsealed an indictment against the crooks Tuesday.
“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,” said Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Peter Fitzhugh in a statement.
A senior law-enforcement official noted to The Post that the sales occurred in an area with a vulnerable population living in the shadows of the glitz of Broadway.
“It’s important to note there are people particularly on 43rd Street and non-profits that are offering people [the] opportunity [for] recovering from addiction, striving for sobriety,” the source said.
The 24-hour drug distribution ring garnered more than $10,000 a week in sales at Times Square. NYPD / Twitter
“Their sensory is overloaded by these street urchins trying to sell them drugs. These people took advantage of some of those most vulnerable,” the disgusted source said.
Six of eight suspects in the ring were busted Monday night, authorities said.
Those arrested were identified as Johnny Perez, also known as “Ghost,” Aaron Starks, who goes by “Duke,” Sekou Simpson, nicknamed “Tre,” Fred Johnson, who goes by “Trinny,” Davon Mial, dubbed “Smooth,” and Donnell Bruns, known as “Mac.”
The two other suspects — Frayvon Young, also known as “Harlem,” and Robert Mason — are still at large, officials said.
The group peddled their illicit goods between at least December 2019 and this month, investigators said.
The operation, dubbed “Ghostbusters,” began when Perez, a member of the Mac Ballers, a subset of the Bloods gang, was identified and said to be using other people to peddle his product, law-enforcement sources said.
One “shift” of sellers — often overseen by Starks — arrived in the late morning and sold the drugs through the late afternoon, officials said.
The second shift was often supervised by Perez, according to the officials.
The investigation — using an undercover law-enforcement officer and surveillance video — revealed that hundreds of grams of crack were sold, police sources said.
Search warrants at three of the suspects’ homes uncovered about 500 grams of alleged crack, large sums of cash, pots and pans with residue, scales and a cash counter, police sources said.
During a period of 11 days this past March and April, the group conducted more than 650 hand-to-hand sales, officials said.
Officers previously busted Starks in January 2020 in the Times Square area, seizing from him about 312 capsules and 52 twists of crack cocaine, according to the officials.
The investigation was handled by the NYPD, the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, and Homeland Security Investigations.
“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.”
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea lauded his officers for their “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.”
Those already arrested will be presented Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses.
The charge they face carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.