53 charged in probe of violent NYC drug crews

THE BRONX - (AP) - Federal prosecutors charged 53 people onWednesday with running open-air drug markets at two housingprojects near Yankee Stadium.

Among the drugs for sale: Heroin with the brand name "AmericanGangster" - an apparent reference to the 2007 film starring DenzelWashington as a Harlem drug lord.

Early morning raids on Wednesday resulted 37 arrests and seizureof cash, guns and stockpiles of heroin and crack cocaine. Thetakedown followed a yearlong investigation of violent drug crews bythe New York Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration andthe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"As grounds crews were preparing Yankee Stadium for Game Six ofthe World Series, (federal agents and police officers) were doingtheir own house cleaning, so to speak," Police CommissionerRaymond Kelly said at a news conference.

The other defendants were either already in custody or still atlarge, authorities said.

Authorities began the investigation after seeing a spike inshootings - at least six fatal - in and around the Melrose Housesand the adjacent Jackson Houses in the South Bronx. About 5,000people live in the projects about seven blocks east of YankeeStadium.

During the probe, undercover officers made dozens of purchaseson the street of crack and heroin, authorities said. The heroincame in $10 bags stamped with brand names including "Magic" and"Poison."

If convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs, several of thedefendants would face a maximum term of life in prison.

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