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Drug bust at LeFrak City


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

A seven-month undercover investigation at LeFrak City netted the arrest of 46 people on drug and other charges.

The defendants – who range in age from 17 to 63 – are charged with selling crack and powdered cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other controlled substances, including prescription medications, to undercover police officers on hundreds of occasions over a seven-month period in and around LeFrak City.

In one instance, it is alleged that 14 undercover drug purchases were made from two men who were operating out of a licensed day care center at the complex. In another instance, it is alleged that in executing a search warrant at another complex apartment, the tenants – one of whom is an inspector at the City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission – tried to evade arrest by releasing a pit bull whose vocal cords had allegedly been cut. The dog was captured, but not before attacking one of the officers who required medical treatment.

“This initiative is yet another step in our continuing campaign to stop drug-dealing and drug-based violence in Queens,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “These arrests underscore our commitment to improve the quality of life for the residents of LeFrak City.”

The investigation began in March 2011 when detectives assigned to the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Division received information regarding drug dealing around LeFrak City. In response, the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Division and District Attorney Brown’s Narcotics Investigation Bureau dispatched numerous undercover officers to purchase crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and marijuana. During the course of the investigation, undercover officers additionally purchased methadone, Ecstasy, oxycodone, codeine and Xanax, among other drugs.

Fourteen drug sales were allegedly made out of 98-38 57th Avenue, apartment 2K, which is the location of the state-licensed Burke-Arthur Day Care Center whose listed owner is Diane Burke. Two of the defendants – Hector Rodriguez and Donnell Burnhill who are, respectively, Burke’s son and the father of Burke’s daughter’s baby – are accused of selling undercover officers marijuana, crack cocaine and Ecstasy pills from the daycare center, which has the capacity to care for 12 children.

In addition to the arrests, officers executed thirteen court-authorized search warrants and allegedly recovered nearly seven pounds of marijuana, more than two pounds of cocaine, various amounts of crack cocaine, over 3,600 pills, $3,400 in cash, and a 25-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

In executing a search warrant at 96-08 57th Avenue, apartment 4C, it is alleged that police observed Eugene Griffin, a New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission lieutenant inspector, exiting the location smoking a marijuana cigarette. When told not to move by police, it is alleged that Griffin re-entered the two-bedroom apartment. As police entered the apartment, a pit bull, whose vocal cords apparently had been altered to prevent the animal from barking, was released in an effort by those inside to evade arrest.

Arrested at the location was Eugene Griffin, 62, his wife, Joanne Griffin, 62, their son, Omar R. Griffin, 30, and Ricketta Smith, 23, on multiple charges – including third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree assault. Allegedly recovered at the apartment were 263 zip lock bags of marijuana, a black bag containing a pound of marijuana, a plastic tube containing cocaine, three electronic scales, a grinder with marijuana, a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol and other items.

Police additionally served a nuisance abatement order on the day care center, the Griffins’ apartment, as well as three other apartments in the complex.

The defendants are variously charged with multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal sale of marijuana, criminal possession of marijuana and criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions.

In addition to drug charges, some of the defendants are variously charged with criminal possession of a weapon, assault and resisting arrest.