Gang War Crackdown Nets 63 People Accused of Terrorizing East Harlem
LOWER MANHATTAN — Dozens of alleged gang members accused of terrorizing East Harlem with 69 shootings since fall 2009 have been rounded up by the NYPD after their members incriminated themselves on social media and in recorded phone calls full of code words.
Authorities said Thursday morning they have indicted 63 members of three rival street gangs accused of crimes including three murders, more than 30 shootings, gang assaults and gun trafficking.
Members of crews called Air It Out, True Money Gang and Whoadey are responsible for six homicides, 46 non-fatal shootings and 17 incidents in which shots were fired since October 2009, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said at a press conference.
"Today's indictments chronicle a bloody gang war that claimed the lives of at least three teenagers, led to the shooting of dozens of individuals and put bounties on people's heads," he said.
The charges include conspiracy, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, and carry sentences of up to 25 years to life in prison.
Authorities provided a two-page glossary of code words gang members are said to have used, including "biscuit," "flamingo," "girlfriend," "yammer" and "Mariah" — all of which meant gun.
The gangs operated in the area bound by East 116th Street, Third Avenue, East 106th Street and Fifth Avenue, authorities said. They centered on the three public housing complexes there.
The three-and-a-half-year joint investigation by police and the district attorney's office uncovered hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts, cell phone videos and calls made from Rikers Island that plotted the deaths of rival gang members.
"God forgives I dont … somebodie gotta die," a member of Air It Out wrote on Facebook, according to the DA's office.
Vance said postings like this are an important part of prosecutors' evidence.
"The internet is our 21st century crime scene," Vance said. "There's isn't a crime here in Manhattan that doesn't leave an electronic fingerprint on the internet.
He added, "Four or five" of the accused criminals are still on the loose."
"We expect and hope that the impact of these indictments will be felt quickly in East Harlem," said NYPD chief Anthony J. Izzo.
Multiple defendants are set to be arraigned Thursday.