NYPD crackdown on Times Square drug dealers as violence plagues top tourist spot


At least eight drug dealers ran a 24-hour open-air crack cocaine market near Times Square for at least 18 months before they were shut down by law enforcement officials last month, the federal government claims.

The drug bust, which was made possible thanks to undercover officers purchasing large quantities of crack cocaine from multiple dealers, comes as Times Square has been plagued with violent incidents this spring and summer.

The latest Times Square crime outrage is said to have seen eight men working worked ‘round-the-clock shifts.’

They generated more than $10,000 a week while selling narcotics in the vicinity of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to investigators.

‘This crew gave new meaning to the slogan for New York City as the “city that never sleeps”, by allegedly operating a 24-hour drug distribution ring,’ according to Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh.

‘Working in shifts nearly around the clock, they preyed on the addictions and vulnerabilities of others.’

The drug ring began operating from as early as December 2019. 

According to the federal government, the first ‘shift’ began in the late morning and made sales throughout the late afternoon.

The second ‘shift’ would then begin in the late afternoon or early evening and stretch well into the night.

Federal prosecutors allege that the two shifts were overseen by Aaron Starks, 36, of the Bronx, and Johnny Perez, 37, also of the Bronx.

Perez is a reputed member of the Mac Ballers, a subset of the Bloods gang, according to the New York Post

Johnny Perez, 37, also of the Bronx

Aaron Starks (left), 36, and Johnny Perez, 37, both of the Bronx, are the alleged leaders of a drug ring that was dealing crack cocaine near Times Square for a period of at least 18 months, according to the federal government

Sekou Simpson

Fred Johnson, 43

The other suspects who were taken into custody as a result of the drug bust were identified as Sekou Simpson (left) of Brooklyn and Fred Johnson, 43, of Manhattan

Davon Mial, 32

Donnell Bruns, 42, of the Bronx

Two other members of the alleged drug ring have been identified by authorities as Davon Mial (left), 32, of the Bronx and Donnell Bruns, 42, of the Bronx

Frayvon Young

Robert Mason

Investigators are searching for two other suspects – Frayvon Young (left) and Robert Mason

The drug ring made up of eight men is alleged to have worked ‘round-the-clock shifts’ and generated more than $10,000 a week while selling narcotics in the vicinity of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to investigators

The drug ring made up of eight men is alleged to have worked ‘round-the-clock shifts’ and generated more than $10,000 a week while selling narcotics in the vicinity of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to investigators

They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of crack cocaine

They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of crack cocaine

Times Square has been plagued by recent incidences of gun violence. The image above shows people in Times Square on Monday

Times Square has been plagued by recent incidences of gun violence. The image above shows people in Times Square on Monday

The drug bust was made possible by surveillance video that allegedly showed the continuous sale of crack cocaine in the area.

During an 11-day period between March and April 2021, law enforcement officials allege that there were 650 hand-to-hand drug transactions.

Starks was arrested by law enforcement officials in January of last year. Authorities allege that at the time of his arrest he was in possession of approximately 312 capsules of crack cocaine and 52 twists of crack cocaine. 

The other suspects who were taken into custody as a result of the drug bust were identified as Sekou Simpson of Brooklyn; Fred Johnson, 43, of Manhattan; Davon Mial, 32, of the Bronx; and Donnell Bruns, 42, of the Bronx.

They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of crack cocaine.

Investigators are searching for two other suspects – Frayvon Young and Robert Mason.   

Rapes in New York City were up 3.1 percent so far this year, with 842 reported as of August 1, compared to 817 in the same period of 2020

Rapes in New York City were up 3.1 percent so far this year, with 842 reported as of August 1, compared to 817 in the same period of 2020

Last month, surveillance footage captured a man who slashed a 23-year-old woman who ignored his catcalls in Times Square

Last month, surveillance footage captured a man who slashed a 23-year-old woman who ignored his catcalls in Times Square

Police are seeking this man wearing a No. 9 sports jersey after three innocent bystanders were shot in Times Square in May

Police are seeking this man wearing a No. 9 sports jersey after three innocent bystanders were shot in Times Square in May

If convicted, the men face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

The suspects were scheduled to be presented on Tuesday before US Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses.

‘As alleged, the defendants operated a veritable 24-hour open-air bazaar for the sale of crack cocaine in Times Square,’ Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

‘We recall the bad old days of a much seedier Times Square that was unwelcoming, and we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those days remain just a memory.’ 

In May, three innocent bystanders, including a four-year-old girl, were hit by stray bullets in Times Square in broad daylight.

A few weeks before that incident, a tourist from Kansas City was shot in the shoulder by a stray bullet near Times Square.

On June 27, a 16-year-old boy allegedly shot and injured a Marine in Times Square. The soldier, Samuel Poulin, 21, was hit in the back by a ricocheting bullets as he walked with his family near the Marriott Hotel on West 45th Street around 5:15pm. 

Fortunately, he was not seriously wounded.

Last month, a 23-year old woman was slashed in the chest and hand in Times Square when a stranger lashed out after she ignored his catcalls, police said.  

New York City is in the midst of skyrocketing crime rates overall. 

NYPD crime data show that rapes are up 3.1 per cent so far this year, with 842 reported as of August 1, compared to 817 in the same period of 2020.

Other sex crimes are up 26.3 per cent to 2,719 this year, compared to 2,152 last year, according to NYPD statistics.

Avon Darden, 16, handed himself over to cops at the Midtown South Precinct station house on Wednesday a whopping ten days after the shooting

He is pictured in surveillance footage while cops searched for him

Avon Darden, 16, handed himself over to cops at the Midtown South Precinct station house in July a whopping ten days after a stray bullet allegedly fired from his gun struck a Marine. He is pictured in surveillance footage while cops searched for him

Darden is allegedly pictured with the gun during the shooting on June 27

Darden is allegedly pictured with the gun during the shooting on June 27

Samuel Poulin, 21, was hit in the back by a ricocheting bullet as he walked with his family near the Marriott Hotel on W. 45th St. around 5:15 p.m. on June 27

Samuel Poulin, 21, was hit in the back by a ricocheting bullet as he walked with his family near the Marriott Hotel on W. 45th St. around 5:15 p.m. on June 27

Shootings have spiked 15.8 per cent in 2021 compared to last year, with 900 shooting incidents in 2021 compared to 777 in 2020.

There are also 12 per cent more shooting victims this year, the data shows, with 1,057 people falling prey to gun violence compared to 944 last year.

The biggest leap in crime rates is for hate crimes, which have surged by 103 per cent in the last year. 

The data come amid numerous random attacks on Asian Americans in the city in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 



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