Published: Saturday, February 25, 2006
Arrest warrants name 28 people in lucrative cocaine-dealing ring
The attorney general said sales goals were as high as $20,000 a day.
By LAURE CIOFFI
NEW CASTLE, Pa. They have nicknames like "O-Z," "Geronimo" and "Panama," and they spent most of their time at a local hangout they liked to call "The Clubhouse."
Now, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and local law enforcement officials are hoping to send the whole gang to the Big House.
More than 70 law enforcement officers were dispatched Friday morning with arrest warrants for 28 people from two rival Detroit gangs who had set up shop in New Castle selling cocaine. The groups also recently had fanned out their operations to Farrell and Beaver Falls, Corbett said.
The rings are responsible for the sale of as much as $2 million worth of crack cocaine in the New Castle area since 2003, the attorney general said.
"These Detroit area dealers used a combination of threats, physical violence and drug payments to gain a foothold in the New Castle area," Corbett said. "Profit was the motive, with sales goals as high as $20,000 per day, and the dealers took aggressive steps to protect their lucrative enterprises."
The operations were headed by James Brooks, known as "O-Z," 39, who lists his local address as Mc-
Keesport, Pa., but his mailing address as Ohio Street, Detroit, and Lamarol Abram, 28, of Detroit.
Police said Brooks headed a group from the west side of Detroit, and Abram, one from the east side. Although they were rivals, they often worked in concert to shut out other cocaine dealers in New Castle to keep the trade for themselves, Corbett said.
Police arrested Brooks early Friday. He was arraigned before District Justice Melissa Amodie in Lawrence County Central Court. His bond was set at $500,000, and Amodie didn't allow Brooks to post a percentage to get out of jail.
Police did not arrest Abram or most of his east side group Friday. They were believed to have left Thursday for Detroit to buy more drugs, Corbett added. Detroit police were given copies of the warrants, he said.
Brought in kids
New Castle Police Chief Tom Sansone said both groups brought in juveniles as young as 14 or 15 from Detroit to sell drugs on the streets to avoid adult criminal charges.
Sansone said his officers would often pick up the teenagers after midnight and turn them over to Children and Youth Services, who would then return them to Detroit.
The charges are part of a nine-month investigation in which agents used court-ordered wiretaps, undercover and controlled drug purchases, and other investigative methods to identify the suspects.
More than 15 witnesses testified before the grand jury, which recommended that the charges be filed.
Witnesses testified that The Clubhouse, at 922 Carson St., owned by Gerald Crosby Jr., nicknamed "Geronimo," was the main site for Brooks' organization. All the windows and all but one of the doors were nailed shut. Anyone going to The Clubhouse had to visit a dealer in an upstairs bedroom to buy crack. Court papers said that activity continued until The Clubhouse burned April 9, 2005.
Corbett said the gangs took over other New Castle homes after being invited in by drug users.
He said several of these houses were within sight of the police department and the Lawrence County Courthouse.
The drug dealers were known to kick, beat or threaten people with weapons to persuade them to buy drugs from the "right" dealers members of the Detroit groups, Corbett said.
At one point, the drug dealers invited users to a party at the Brinton Hill apartments here. They locked the door and took everyone's pictures, court papers say.
Anthony Neal, who uses the street name "Panama," 34, of Detroit, told the partiers that if "anything went wrong" the pictures would be passed on to others who would take retribution, court papers say.
Corbett said upper-level dealers often instructed others to sell the crack cocaine only in small amounts and to charge as much as possible. Corbett explained that dealers would often increase prices so that an ounce of cocaine bought for $500 on the streets of Detroit would be sold for as much as $2,500 in New Castle.
The attorney general said some of their customers came from the Youngstown area.
Corbett said Anthony Neal boasted that he made $63,000 in drug sales during August 2005. His brother, Jasper Neal, also 34, of Southville, Mich., told an undercover city police officer he had a personal goal of making $20,000 a day from drug sales, Corbett added.
Local residents were often tapped to drive the dealers back and forth to Detroit, and women sometimes hid the drugs in their body cavities, police said.
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Scott Neal said the investigation into drugs will continue.
Mayor Wayne Alexander said he estimates 80 percent of the drug trade was stopped with these arrests.