Highly organized drug ring relied on 8-year-old as a lookout
A major New York drug ring, which police announced this week had been destroyed, apparently relied upon an 8-year-old boy as a lookout, part of a calculating and highly regimented operating system that even officials said was impressive.
A Wednesday raid on the ring in East Harlem also turned up some surprises, such as 2 1/2 gallons of liquid PCP in Hawaiian Punch bottles and $39,000 in cash, New York police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference. Thirty-five people were arrested and charged with a total of 275 counts alleging conspiracy, drug possession and drug-selling.
"We had housewives, people going back with large amounts to their neighborhoods in other states. We had all ... types of people," police Inspector Lori Pollack said in an NY1 account describing the range of customers who frequented the business, which did more than $1 million a year in drug sales.
"It was pretty structured, I will say that," she said of the manner in which the alleged ringleaders, brothers Lamont and Bernard Moultrie, ran the drug ring. "There were posts. You knew where you had to be, you knew what your hours were going to be." The ring included packagers, security guards and vetters who would assess each customer for signs they might be undercover agents.
One of the workers was an 8-year-old boy who served as a lookout and whose responsibilities included warning his bosses if trouble was on the way. He was considered a victim and was not among those facing criminal charges.
“The defendants used this child to facilitate the daily activity of this drug den, putting him in harm's way every day ... 8 years old,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., said at the news conference.
In the end, the business' success may have been its downfall. Police began an investigation at the housing project that served as the drug ring's base after neighbors complained about the activity there, saying they had to push through lines of people in the lobby who would show up each day to make purchases. The investigation took 15 months to complete, in part because of the layers of security and lookouts.
One of the alleged ringleaders, Lamont Moultrie, was on parole for a 1989 murder when he was arrested Wednesday. Another suspect had been in jail for murder and had just been released last March after serving 25 years.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Police in New York discuss a raid that took down a major drug ring -- a ring that used an 8-year-old as a lookout. Credit: Kathy Willens/Associated Press