A joint law enforcement operation to disrupt Long Island gang activity has removed 116 wanted people – including 69 gang targets – from the streets, including a Suffolk homicide suspect and an accused Nassau suspect to be a major drug trafficker, authorities said Thursday.
The US Marshals Service led the island-wide effort to capture the suspects, teaming up with state and local law enforcement to carry out a series of warrant busts over a period of about two weeks.
The sweep was the first of its kind on Long Island in 15 years and was carried out before what authorities said was a typical spike in crime during the summer and due to an increase in gang-related shootings, said officials said.
The operation, dubbed “Long Island Wave”, brought suspects wanted for crimes off the streets that also included attempted murder, robbery and possession of weapons, according to law enforcement officials. They said those arrested included members of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and MS-13 gangs.
“This is a great example of precision policing,” Edward McMahon, commander of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force of the US Marshals Service, said at a press conference Thursday at the courthouse. Federal of Central Islip.
The task force, which it says has arrested ‘the worst of the worst violent offenders’ in the region for two decades, has created a team of 200 officers for the operation by deputizing for 100 law enforcement officials in the region. after partnering with 16 agencies including Nassau. and Suffolk police, prosecutors and sheriff’s departments.
Months ago, the task force began compiling a list of violent and repeat criminals and gang members before conducting a “push” effort between May 2 and May 13 to arrest as many targets as possible, officials said.
“Targeting gang members is very important because as we know the criminal element is a small segment of the population. So that same gang member who has a warrant for robbery or criminal possession of a weapon needs to be taken off the streets because maybe next week he’ll be shooting at the family barbecue of a member of a rival gang,” McMahon added.
The operation also aimed to gather better intelligence on gang operations, including drug trafficking, the task force commander said.
Vincent DeMarco, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of New York, said Thursday most of the fugitives were found locally and 90 of the arrests involved felony charges.
The task force nabbed Stephon Whats in Harrisburg, Pa., the last of nine major suspected drug traffickers charged in what Nassau prosecutors said was a narcotics ring operating in the Hempstead area at the height of the pandemic. .
Law enforcement officials seized more than $2.7 million worth of drugs in the case, including pure cocaine as well as crack cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and morphine, during a a crisis last year that led to a 175-count indictment against about 40 defendants.
Court records show the 39-year-old pleaded not guilty on April 19 to multiple felony charges including operating as a major drug dealer, conspiracy and criminally selling cocaine.
Authorities said Ifs was among 14 high-value targets they arrested ahead of the two-week warrant sweep, catching him after deciding to act quickly after confirming his whereabouts while gathering information on the targets.
Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said Thursday Whats made at least half a million dollars selling cocaine on the streets of Hempstead between May and October 2020.
She also alleged that Ifs and his co-defendants raised the price of the drug so they could make more money because demand for cocaine exceeded supply during the pandemic.
“Thank you to this operation, for putting Stephon Whats back behind bars,” Donnelly added.
Whats attorney Robert Schalk said later Thursday, “We’re not going to judge this case in the press. We look forward to fighting it in court. »
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Thursday, while standing with other law enforcement officials, that the warrant sweep has already helped stem the crime tide.
“Every time you take a bad guy off the street, that’s one less victim we’re going to have. We speak for the victims. MS-13, Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips, it doesn’t matter what gang you belong to I do part of this gang and this gang wins hands down every time… We never, ever surrender to the violence that is rampant in the streets,” he added.
Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said on Thursday that the federal government-led sweep was “help that is badly needed and greatly appreciated.”
The defendant in the Central Islip case, Quinton Booker, 30, is among those accused in Suffolk whom the task force has arrested, authorities say. Court records show the Mastic Beach man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder and reckless endangerment.
Tierney’s office said Booker was charged with shooting dead 27-year-old Selden resident Rahsaan Pressley on September 19, 2020, after firing an assault rifle from one vehicle into another.
Booker’s attorney, Michael Brown, said Thursday that his client denies involvement and has not hidden from authorities. Central Islip’s attorney said Booker was charged last month and only found out about his warrant when he was recently arrested.
The shooting happened after Pressley allegedly pulled a knife on Booker’s co-defendant Tarrel Thaw earlier that night, prosecutors say. They said Thaw, 32, who was allegedly with Booker during the shooting, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is expected to be sentenced next month.