Authorities Wednesday said they dealt a significant blow to drug-dealing street gangs that have terrorized Hempstead village residents, arresting 10 "significant players" linked to those violent crews.
Several leaders and associates of the Hempstead Bloods and at least one member of their rival gang, the Crips, were arrested Wednesday morning, in addition to six others charged in recent months with various gun, drug-dealing and assault charges stemming from gang activity in the village, police said.
Other Hempstead gang members linked to drug trafficking and gun crimes are "being hunted" by investigators, with more arrests expected, officials said.
Several firearms were seized during the 10 arrests, including weapons police believe were used by gang members to commit crimes, officials said, without citing a specific number or type.
"These are significant players," Michael Harpster, a special agent in charge of the FBI's criminal division, said of the alleged gang members at a news conference at Nassau police headquarters. "There's no boundaries to what these guys do or where they will go," he said, adding that the men also traveled into Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens as part of their gang activities. Police are looking into possible ties between local street gangs and those in Queens.
The men arrested are Raymond Lopez, 20, of Uniondale, and Hempstead residents Ramel Myriee, 47; Jayson Simms-Orr, 24; Richard Blain, 34; Andre Chandler, 31; Donovan Joseph, 24; Ramel Floyd, 27; Curel Patterson, 29; Curtis Bostic, 23; and Jarrette Anderson, 20, Nassau police said.
Five of those arrested face federal charges, most involving drug sales, records show. Five others face state charges linked to drugs, guns, assault, and other crimes, officials said.
Among those facing the most serious charges are Simms-Orr and Blain, who are accused of selling crack in Hempstead on multiple occasions, records show. Blain is also accused of selling an illegal loaded .38 revolver, prosecutors said.
Eastern District prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz identified Simms-Orr as leader of 3rd Street Mafia Bloods, a notoriously violent drug-dealing crew based in Hempstead, officials said. Authorities did not detail the crew affiliations of the other suspected Bloods and Crips.
At their arraignments in U.S. District Court in Central Islip Wednesday, Simms-Orr and Blain were ordered held without bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Locke. Neither entered a plea.
The attorney for Simms-Orr, Joseph Gentile of Mineola, declined to comment, as did Blain's attorney, Martin Geduldig of Garden City.
Two other suspects arrested were awaiting arraignment last night. Lawyers for the six previously arrested could not immediately be reached for comment.
The takedown followed a yearlong effort led by the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force, which is made up of federal agents, Nassau and Hempstead police detectives and others, officials said.
Federal and local authorities stepped up efforts to combat Hempstead's gangs after a deadly 2012 turf war between Bloods and Crips crews.
The Bloods and Crips sell heroin and cocaine in the village, and have been linked to dozens of fatal and nonfatal shootings, some of which remain unsolved, officials said.
"These are individuals who are preying on their own community," Nassau Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said of Hempstead's gangs. "They're terrorizing their own community."
Investigators last year said they had identified roughly 2,700 Bloods and Crips, combined, on Long Island over the past decade. But they've been hindered in their efforts to solve homicides in gang-plagued parts of Hempstead by a social prohibition on "snitching," or speaking to police, officials said.
Many village residents say cooperation is fraught with risks because of the "snitches get stitches" rule. By giving police details about gang crimes, they say, a witness or informant may become a target.
"Some of these communities are tight-lipped. It's not easy to break that silence," Skrynecki said. At Wednesday's news conference, Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall called on residents to help police identify those responsible for three killings in four days in Hempstead last week.
None of the men arrested in the gang takedown are believed to be linked to those killings, but police believe one of the three homicides may be gang related.