Sixteen members and associates of the Latin Kings street gang considered “the most prolific narcotics traffickers in the Long Beach area” were charged Thursday with conspiring to deal cocaine and crack, marijuana and the synthetic drug ethylone, federal officials said.
Federal agents and Long Beach police in the South Shore city conducted raids early Thursday morning to arrest 14 members of the large-scale drug ring, according to officials and court papers.
Two of the defendants were arrested in Miami, where they were vacationing and awaiting hearings in the federal court there, officials said.
The four-count indictment unsealed in federal court in Central Islip charges the 16 defendants with four narcotics trafficking conspiracies, including conspiracies to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, crack, ethylone — known as molly, a manufactured synthetic drug in the amphetamine family — and marijuana, officials said. Not all the defendants are charged with all counts.
The investigation was a joint operation by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Long Island Drug Task Force, and Long Beach City police.
Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said residents’ complaints about suspicious activities and a parade of people coming to a specific location for a brief time helped to tip police officers and spark the investigation.
The federal involvement in the case came about after a request for aid from city officials, according to sources familiar with the situation.
“This indictment should serve as notice to all gang members — we will not tolerate the flooding of our streets with illegal drugs,” Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers said in a statement. “We are committed to rooting out all drug trafficking and gang activity on Long Island.”
Tangney said in a statement: “Removing these dangerous individuals from our streets makes the community much safer. This joint investigation . . . demonstrates that when federal and local enforcement work together, greater results are achieved.”
Long Beach City officials said one of the alleged dealers, Arthur Collins, 38, of Island Park, is a city employee. Collins, a supervisor of sewer maintenance, was suspended Thursday indefinitely without pay pending further discipline, said City Manager Jack Schnirman. Officials also confiscated the city truck Collins used, officials said.
Collins’ annual salary is $67,436. He has been a full-time employee since September 2005, city officials said.
Collins pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and was released on $200,000 bond by Magistrate Anne Shields, officials said.
The arrests were the result of a two-year investigation, during which the defendants “were intercepted on multiple occasions engaging in narcotics trafficking activities,” prosecutors said in a news release. “The charged conspiracies involved over 50 kilograms of cocaine, five kilograms of crack cocaine, two kilograms of molly, and 500 pounds of marijuana.”
Eleven of the defendants face a maximum of life in prison if convicted; four face up to 40 years; one faces a maximum of 20 years. The suspects were arraigned Thursday at the federal court in Central Islip.
The federal prosecutors on the case — Grace Cucchissi, Lara Treinis Gatz, and Mark Misorek — declined to comment, as did attorneys for those arrested who could be contacted.