L & L Barbershop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by the author
The L & L Barbershop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was open for business as usual on Thursday. Patrons sat and awaited the Dominican-American barbers' razors in a scene surely replicated in dozens of similar spots across New York City.
But L & L is the only Brooklyn barbershop that just got implicated in a major coke and heroin operation.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and New York Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton announced charges against 22 people for dealing drugs in Williamsburg Thursday. The larger of two indictments names 18 defendants facing 157 counts for selling heroin and cocaine in the vicinity of South 5th and Keap Street. (L & L is on South 4th near the intersection with Keap.) Most of the defendants, who range in age from 17 to 30, were arraigned on Wednesday.
The robust indictment alleges dealers often convened at L & L, storing drugs in the shop's office, along with a number of other safe houses. Fifteen transactions took place within 1,000 feet of either an elementary school or day care, prosecutors say.
Schoolchildren were walking by the shop when 28-year-old John Reyes was awaiting his haircut Thursday. While he admits drug-related activity is a problem in the neighborhood, he's skeptical the barbershop's owner or any of the individual barbers are directly involved. Instead, he floated the possibility that someone unaffiliated with the shop might have stored drugs in the store, and he suggested the police arrested someone who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
"What are you going to say? There are 15 people who are working here, and they found the drugs in the back?" Reyes told me, speaking hypothetically. "How is he in possession of the drug if it's all the way back here?"
The charges include criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and conspiracy in the second and fourth degree. Cops leaned on physical, electronic, and video surveillance to build their case.
The smaller indictment—which names four defendants on 38 counts—includes lesser charges of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a controlled substance. The perps allegedly sold crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana to undercover cops.
Investigators first began looking into this case when a man named Andrew Sanchez was shot outside of 417 Lorimer Avenue in what cops quickly determined was likely a drug-related incident. And this latest bust comes five months after police hit 25 people with heroin-related charges connected to a family-run ring that allegedly brought in $1.5 million a year.
"Drug dealers peddle poison that kills our neighbors, degrades our communities, and frequently leads to violence," DA Thompson said Thursday. "I have no tolerance for these activities, and we will continue to aggressively prosecute these important cases."
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