July 1, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A large criminal network of drug dealers and gun traffickers have been busted for operating an illegal scheme in a Far Rockaway housing development – and surrounding Queens areas.
Twenty-one suspects, including an MTA worker, were arrested and indicted by a Queens County grand jury Wednesday and variously charged with flooding the Redfern Houses with cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs.
Some of the heroin the crew peddled was packaged in glassine envelopes and stamped in red with the words “King of Death” along with a photo of the Grim Reaper.
The defendants also terrorized the neighborhood with illegal firearms while one of the alleged drug dealers was shot and killed coming out of the housing development, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office. The murder of victim Ernest Thomas is still under investigation.
“Drugs and guns have been a toxic combination for far too long, made so by individual drivers of crime,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said at a press briefing with the NYPD yesterday.
“My office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to make certain no community is held hostage to those who seek to profit from human misery.”
Cops took down the criminal enterprise following a 15-month long operation – beginning in November 2019 – which consisted of wiretaps and a string of undercover operations.
Investigators discovered the ring after eavesdropping on the cell phone communications of Antoine Nance, who had been discussing narcotics and firearms with many of the defendants, Katz said.
Nance, 35, of Alameda Avenue in Far Rockaway, was allegedly being supplied drugs by Kimiko Leonard, 34, a female conductor with the MTA who resides in Jamaica.
According to the charges, the pair allegedly used code words to set up drug deals with Nance texting Leonard that he “needed a ride to 200 Street,” which actually meant he wanted to buy 200 grams of cocaine.
The surveillance of Nance then led investigators to Kasson Brown, who is accused of being a top supplier of cocaine and heroin in the area.
Brown 32, of Beach 19th Street in Far Rockaway, used runners to sell the deadly drugs on the streets to avoid detection from the police.
However, one of Brown’s paid runners was introduced to an undercover officer who was acting as a drug buyer. When the “buyer” wanted to make a purchase, the undercover officer would allegedly reach out to Brown to get heroin or cocaine from one of his runners.
Tests on some of the confiscated heroin supplied by Brown’s runners revealed a mix of heroin, fentanyl and tramadol. At times, tests showed the substance was pure fentanyl, officials said.
Jason Bernadotte, a 20-year-old from the Redfern Houses, was identified as one of Brown’s alleged street runners.
During a search of Bernadotte’s home on Sep. 29, 2020, police allegedly recovered 117 glassine envelopes containing a mix of heroin, fentanyl and tramadol. There were also 65 ‘twists’ of cocaine found.
The home of Redfern Houses resident Sekou Santiago, 32, was also raided by police. Cops recovered a Glock pistol, a high-capacity magazine, a loaded magazine, a laser sight, 114 grams of heroin and fentanyl and 269 grams of cocaine.
The 21 defendants are variably charged with the criminal sale of a controlled substance, conspiracy, weapons charges and other crimes. If convicted, some of the suspects face up to 30 years in prison.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that the NYPD and the Queens DA Office are determined to keep the streets safe for all residents.
“This investigation highlights our joint responsibilities in eradicating shootings, illegal firearms and the violence of the narcotics trade that tear at the fabric of life in our city.
Meanwhile, Meredith Daniels, a spokesperson for the MTA described the charges against Leonard as “serious and disturbing.”
“New York City Transit fully cooperated with authorities and following the indictment the employee has been taken out of service.