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The afternoon raid at 88-11 Elmhurst Ave. began around 4 p.m. when neighbors saw police armed with automatic weapons on the fifth floor smash down the door to a 400-square-foot studio apartment, where at least six Hispanic males were living, according to witnesses. Dominic Lopez, a special narcotics agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said two of the six suspects taken into custody were fugitives sought by law enforcement officials for drug dealing across U.S. borders. "They were wanted for involvement in narcotic trafficking and importation," Lopez said. He did not know exactly what kind of drugs were involved but suspected it was cocaine or heroin. Homeland Security agents were led to the house after an investigation, he said. Neighbors said they heard officers say two of the suspects were from the Dominican Republic. One suspect tried to flee down a fire escape but was caught before he could get away, a witness said. "I saw one guy jumping down the fire escape from floor to floor," said Carmen Luciano, who lives in the building and was walking outside during the raid. The suspects, who ranged in age from their early 20s to late 40s, were led out of the building in handcuffs just before 9 p.m. and loaded into a red Ford van that was escorted out of the one-way street by two other unmarked cars. The suspects were silent as they were whisked away by plain-clothed officers wearing latex gloves. One officer carried a clear plastic bag labeled "evidence" that contained an envelope with a U.S. Customs Office return address and other documents wrapped in plastic. Officers had no comment on the arrests. Neighbors said the group had been living in the apartment for the past six or seven months and were frequently heard partying late into the night. "They would be up all night playing loud music," said Teresa Montante, who lives in the apartment next door with her sister, Grace Piano. The sisters said that there was also a woman who frequented the apartment and occasionally stayed overnight. Montante said she got home from jury duty at about 5 p.m. to find the hallway full of police, who told her there were fugitives living in the building. "I was so scared I asked one of the officers to walk me in the house to see if anyone was in there," Montante said. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters, Jr. by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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