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17 arrested in alleged Jamaica drug ring: DA

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Nine months after busting a suspected ring of drug dealers inside the South Jamaica Housing Project, Queens prosecutors last week said they arrested 17 more gang members they believe took over after the last sweep of arrests.

The arrests came after a 24-week investigation that concluded last week, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at a news conference last Thursday.

In April, law enforcement officials reined in 25 members of a long-entrenched drug ring that police believed operated a $3 million-a-year crack and heroin business inside the housing project, a deeply segregated neighborhood that runs alongside the Long Island Rail Road tracks between 107th and 109th avenues.

Of the 25 arrested in April, 14 have pleaded guilty and are "already serving long jail terms," Brown said.

"Once the members of the gang were arrested, however, a vacuum was created," Brown said. "A group of independent dealers ended up moving in, and the drug dealing began again, although somewhat limited compared to what the crew was taking in before."

Officials refused to identify who, among the list of defendants, were the leaders of the alleged drug ring. They said the buy-and-bust undercover operation would continue.

Most of the defendants arrested last week were residents of the South Jamaica Houses and ranged in age from 17 to 45.

Brown said undercover officers made dozens of crack and heroin transactions with dealers at the housing project during the course of the investigation.

It was estimated that each dealer conducted roughly 30 transactions involving $10 to $20 worth of drugs per day, grossing about $300 daily, or $50,000 during the 24-week probe.

In an earlier drug bust at the housing projects, Brown said eight others were arrested during the holiday season for running a drug packaging factory from inside an apartment. Some 189 bags of crack, 28 tins of cocaine and 26 envelopes of heroin were seized.

"The lesson to be learned is that we - law enforcement - will not go away," Brown said. "We are committed to eliminating drug trafficking in every Queens neighborhood, especially from housing developments where so many law abiding citizens live."

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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