FBI: Gang arrests in Rockville Centre

More than a dozen gang members who controlled the local drug trade were arrested early Wednesday morning during raids on an apartment complex in Rockville Centre, the FBI said. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Howard Schnapp (June 1, 2011)

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Fourteen members of a suspected drug ring headed by members of the Bloods street gang and centered in a Rockville Centre housing project were arrested Wednesday in pre-dawn raids, authorities said.

The raids by the FBI and police came after a four-month investigation into cocaine and crack dealing at the Old Mill Court apartment complex in which agents taped several thousand phone calls they say involved drug dealing, officials said.

On the tapes, the ring members used code words for drug dealing, according to FBI agents. "Crusty crabs" meant cocaine base and "white lady" was cocaine, court documents show.

The leader of the suspected ring, identified as Latee Smith, 31, of 150 W. Columbia St., Hempstead, is a member of the Bloods, authorities said.

Smith's attorney, Anthony La Pinta, declined to comment, as did federal prosecutors Tom Sullivan and Nicole Boeckmann.

The other three key members of the suspected ring, also identified as Bloods by officials, were Jamel Richardson-Banks, 28, of 29B Old Mill Court; Neville Hunter, 30, of 15A Old Mill Court; and Rasharid Agee, 34, of 29D Old Mill Court.

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The four suspected Bloods and 10 others who authorities say were involved in the drug ring, were arraigned Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. They were not required to enter a plea, and were held without bail by Magistrate E. Thomas Boyle.

Attorneys for most of the defendants declined to comment.

Two defendants were still sought, officials said. If convicted, the defendants face prison sentences of 10 years to a maximum of life.

Wednesday's arrests bring to about 70 the members of gangs on Long Island who have been arrested in the past year by FBI agents working with police, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the Eastern District U.S. attorney's office.

The nine-building Old Mill Court complex, which houses about 400 people in 154 garden apartments, is a project built about 1967 under urban-renewal policies. The complex was gutted and remodeled between 2007 and 2009.

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One resident, Loula Hamilton, 88, said Wednesday she follows a credo at nightfall. "They say it's not smart to look out a window, cuz a bullet can fly in," she said. "So I just lay inside and watch TV."

A former resident who lives nearby, Sabrina Scott, however, said the complex is a nice place to raise a family. "It's a great place to live for the kids," she said. "Sometimes you have a little riff raff or whatever."

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