A Woodhaven man was charged with being the main supplier of a drug-selling ring that targeted Russian immigrants in Forest Hills and Rego Park, Queens District Attorney Brown said at a press conference last week.
Five others were charged with selling $80,000 worth of heroin, cocaine and other drugs each week on several local street corners. They were estimated to have had about 50 regular customers.
It is believed that all of their customers in the central part of Queens were members of the burgeoning Russian immigrant population of the area.
The distribution and delivery service took place at the corner of Yellowstone and Woodhaven Boulevards, in front of the P.C. Richard store on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and near the intersection of 99th Street and 65th Avenue in Forest Hills.
Drug buyers met the sellers in their vehicles at prearranged times near the street corners.
Detectives of the Queens Narcotics unit had been investigating the drug ring and gathering evidence since February, Brown said. The perpetrators were arrested last Wednesday and arraigned the day after.
The six face life in prison for their various counts and Brown said he had asked that no bail be offered.
Severo Payano, 46, of 78-17 90th Road in Woodhaven, is alleged to have been the main supplier of drugs for the group.
He reportedly controlled an apartment in Brooklyn where he and others, including Candace Chestnut, who lived there, processed, packaged and stored cocaine and heroin.
Bienvenido Castillo, 59, and his wife Celena Pichardo, 36, of Brooklyn, allegedly bought cocaine and heroin from Payano and repackaged it for street sales. They marked their packs with their own logos like “Much Better” and “BC.”
Two other men, Jose Valentin, 26, and Kwesi Davenport, 24, both of Brooklyn, were also arrested last week.
Narcotics detectives searched the two Brooklyn apartments and seized the following: 1 kilogram of cocaine, 600 grams of heroin in bags, more than 300 glassine packets of heroin plus 173 stamped “BC,” marijuana, a defaced .32 caliber handgun, boxes of empty glassine envelopes, scales, coffee grinders, strainers, rubber stamps, a dust respirator mask, cell phones, beepers, three vehicles and $27,000.
When Castillo was arrested, he was on his way to a customer with 110 packets of heroin. Police sources said that bundles of 10 packets were usually sold for $85 on the streets. The number of customers serviced by this group increased over the time of the investigation.
Brown said he was not surprised to find drugs being sold just a few blocks from his Kew Gardens office. “Drug dealing is all over.”
He used Thursday’s press conference to reiterate his stand to preserve the state’s strict Rockefeller drug laws and to fight against “misguided efforts to weaken them.”
“Drug crimes are not victimless,” Brown said. “It would be a serious mistake to take away our drug laws. Drugs lead to violence and dealers intimidate witnesses.”
According to community leaders, many members of the area’s Russian immigrant population are handicapped by a language, cultural and economic barrier that makes adjusting to their new Queens neighborhood difficult. Young people, especially, are tempted by a feeling of isolation to succumb to peer pressure.
“It is very easy to get drugs in America compared to where they came from,” said Rabbi Michael Boruhov, who works with the Russian Jewish immigrant community.
He works out of the Lefrak City Jewish Center and said, that though drug addiction afflicts only a small percentage of the newcomers, it is a problem among youths that his center is addressing.
“Young people 15 to 20 years old are often unsupervised,” Boruhov said. “Their parents are struggling to find work and work hard to make enough money to live. They can’t control their children.”
Immigrant teens sometimes make the wrong friends when they try to “get into the system,” he added. The Lefrak City Jewish Center offers a haven for teens after school and evenings.
Citing a 70 percent drop in homicides since he took over, Brown added that there is a need to expand treatment efforts without weakening the drug laws.
He wants to get the addicts into treatment while putting the sellers and dealers into jail and keeping them there.