Nassau officials: 'Ultra-violent' gang members arrested

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the "Rollin' Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the "Rollin' 60's" gang moved into Nassau about 2001, as federal law enforcement resources turned away from domestic street gangs and toward the international fight against terrorism. (Nov. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau law enforcement officials have announced the arrest of 14 gang members and four of their associates, a takedown that they are calling the largest in county history.

Prosecutors, who investigated the case along with police and the FBI, say the bust will cripple the "Rollin' 60's" gang, which they said is an "ultra-violent" subset of the national gang the Crips.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the gang moved into Nassau around 2001. The men arrested have been charged with crimes ranging from attempted murder of a Hempstead police officer, to assault, robbery and gun and drug sales.

Prosecutors said the gang's leader, Raphael "Gusto" Osborne, 27, of Roosevelt, could serve life in prison if he is convicted of first-degree attempted murder and various felony weapons charges.

"These young men could have had promising lives, and a few of them may still have that chance. But most of them are going to jail for a very long time," Rice said at a joint news conference with Police Commissioner Thomas Dale and County Executive Edward Mangano.

Building the case

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All 18 men have pleaded not guilty. All but one were held without bail, prosecutors said.

Many had prior felony convictions, prosecutors said.

"They've obviously had a lengthy investigation, and we're going to have to see what the issues are before we address them," said Osborne's lawyer, William Kephart of Garden City.

Gregory Grizopoulos, a Westbury lawyer who represents another defendant, Gary Mosley, 21, of Freeport, said because the cases were presented to a grand jury without notifying the defendants, none have been able to tell their version of events.

"We're entitled to see the evidence, and I'm eager to see what they claim," Grizopoulos said.

Rice said Nassau's investigation into the Rollin' 60's accelerated when gang member Michael Benitez, 26, of Roosevelt, shot a Hempstead police officer in December 2011. One bullet hit the officer, who was not identified, in the back and it was stopped by his vest; another hit him in the left arm. Benitez was sentenced this month to 25 years in prison.

Soon thereafter, investigators say they learned that alleged gang members were selling guns out of Osborne's home, and the home of another alleged gang member, Derick Hernandez, 21, of Roosevelt.

Other alleged gang members, Aaron Halyard and Timothy Fenner, are accused of taking part in a gun-buying operation where they traveled to Southern states, bought guns and then sold them locally at a markup. Rice said Rollin' 60's has been the "number one source of illegal guns" in the county. The two are still at large.

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The defendants are charged with a variety of crimes. In one case, prosecutors say Hernandez lured a person he believed had witnessed an illegal gun sale into a secluded area where Osborne shot him. The victim survived, they said.

Two other suspects later tried to lure the victim out of hiding, prosecutors said.

Osborne and Hernandez are charged with attempted murder in that case.

Rollin' 60's members were also responsible for other shootings, Rice said.

On Aug. 30, 2012, Hernandez and Gary Mosley spotted a man with whom they had a long-standing conflict. Hernandez pulled up next to the man's vehicle and Mosley shot him in the arm, Rice said. When the man abandoned his still-moving vehicle and ran, Hernandez got out of his car and fired additional shots at him, striking a bystander's backpack, Rice said. Hernandez and Mosley were charged with attempted murder.

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In a separate incident on Oct. 6, 2012, alleged gang member Devon Johnson shot another man outside a party after an argument, Rice said. He was charged with attempted murder.

At the news conference, Rice played a video showing some of the accused gang members rapping while holding guns, cash and what appeared to be drugs.

"This is not something they do under cover of darkness," she said.

Dale said police are coming down hard on gang activity.

"Gang and gun violence is not going to be tolerated in Nassau County. Case Closed. The end. Period," he said.

The other suspects

Other arrests and charges announced Thursday include:

Merlin Benetiz, 26, Roosevelt, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Daquanne Nunn, 25, Roosevelt, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Kwame Lake, 21, Hempstead, fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Kurtis Phillip, 21, Uniondale, first-degree robbery.

Tyshawn Gitto, 21, Roosevelt, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Rommel Loben, 27, Roosevelt, first-degree reckless endangerment.

Tyrell Edwards, 22, Roosevelt, third-degree robbery.

Wesley Reyes, 20, Roosevelt, second-degree robbery.

Leshont Rodney-Saunders, 18, Roosevelt, second-degree robbery.

Jeffrey Lee, 18, Roosevelt, second-degree robbery.

Abdul Robinson, 21, West Hempstead, second-degree robbery.

Brian Marshall, 18, South Floral Park, second-degree robbery.

Barry Mosley, 52, Roosevelt, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Jeffrey Appagyei, 31, Roosevelt, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

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