An 18-month probe into a group of violent Bronx drug gangs by federal agents and the NYPD led to the indictment of 84 suspects who traded heroin and other drugs for guns in New England, officials said Thursday.
The gangs, operating primarily in the Fordham, Tremont and High Bridge sections, extended their reach to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where they pumped heroin and crack cocaine into New England communities suffering from exploding addiction rates, according to investigators.
According to Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, the gangs were involved in 22 shootings, with one defendant charged in connection with 11 attempted murders.
Accompanied by Police Commissioner William Bratton and other officials, Clark displayed at a Bronx news conference packages of drugs and numerous handguns seized in the investigation into the operations of gangs known as the “Eden Boys, “Miami Ave.,” UGZ and RGZ.
“With reckless brutality, these four gangs battled on the streets of the Bronx over drug profits made in New England, or purely for the sake of violence, sometimes trapping innocent bystanders in the crossfire,” Clark said in a statement.
While police have for years battled the so called “Iron Pipeline” of gun trafficking from southern states, the Bronx crews were swapping drug shipments for guns provided by their wholesale customers in New England, said Drug Enforcement Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt.
“The west Bronx was the starting point of a drug pipeline to cities as far north as Manchester, New Hampshire,” Hunt said.
The gangs started selling drugs in New England because they discovered that greater profits could be made in those northern areas. In some cases, the gangs get quadruple the prices through crack sales than they could ask for on Bronx streets, investigators said. Bratton said the case began as officers from the 44th Precinct began putting together leads from shootings in the area and looking into social media postings.
In one ominous development, DEA officials said searches indicated some of the heroin was enhanced with Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate which was said to be 70 percent more potent than morphine. Use of Fentanyl greatly increased the risk of deadly overdoses, according to the DEA.
Chief of detectives Robert Boyce said the ongoing investigation was looking into the sources of the Fentanyl. Investigators were looking into the possibility that some deaths may have occurred among drug users in New England who used heroin laced with Fentanyl.
Thirty-one people were arrested on Wednesday as part of the investigation while 35 others were already in custody on related charges, according to the Clark. A total of 18 defendants were being sought.