By Shayna Jacobs and Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A Harlem drug ring known as the "Kings of Dust" that trafficked in over $1 million of PCP and other drugs a year used an 8-year-old boy as a lookout and stashed the drugs in Hawaiian punch containers, authorities said Wednesday.
The 35 alleged members of the crime syndicate, which included teens, were charged with conspiracy and drug sale in a lengthy 268-count indictment that was unsealed Wednesday. Most of them were caught on wiretap carelessly discussing business, prosecutors said.
The group, operating mainly out of public housing on East 117th Street and Madison Avenue, allegedly used an 8-year-old boy who was related to one of the suspects as a lookout throughout the 15-month investigation, authorities said.
The boy, who is now 9, would warn the alleged dealers if cops were coming, authorities said. He has not been charged and is in the custody of the Administration for Children's Services.
"An active member of this group was an 8-year-old boy, who was recruited by members of the organization to act as a lookout and steer [customers]," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday at a press conference at police headquarters.
Vance said the investigation stemmed from complaints from community members about the rampant drug activity, with the prime action taking place when schools were letting out mid-afternoon.
"Neighbors told us directly that they walked in their hallways and streets in fear as their community filled up every afternoon with those people who were selling or buying drugs," the district attorney said.
Authorities said investigators found 2½ gallons of PCP, or Angel Dust, in Hawaiian Punch bottles as well as $39,000 in cash in the home of suspected kingpins Bernard Moultrie, 39, and Lamont Moultrie, 41.
"Now that is a lot of PCP," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said as the charges were announced.
Lamont Moultrie, who was expected to be arraigned Thursday, was on parole for a 1989 murder. His common-law wife, Nicole McNair Moultrie, 40, was also charged with laundering money for the group.
Melvin Tarleton, 45, served 23 years in prison for an "execution-style shooting of a person involved in the drug trade," Assistant District Attorney Lucy Lang said during the arraignments. Tarleton was ordered held on $30,000 bail.
About two dozen disheveled-looking members of the crew, dubbed the "Kings of Dust" for their thriving business, were chained together and brought into Manhattan Supreme Court in the afternoon, many dressed in winter coats and sweatpants.
Most were ordered held on bail or denied bail at least temporarily. Some were released.
It was not immediately clear how many of the charged ring members were apprehended in the Wednesday morning take down but about a dozen were arraigned by the end of the day.
Kelly described how Hilda Santiago, of the Bronx, died from a horrific PCP related death on Sunday on 117th Street and Madison Avenue after buying drugs from the crew.
"One of its customers died a horrific death that is emblematic of the destructive, addictive power of Angel Dust," Kelly said.
Santiago "died after her clothing caught fire and burned her to death. She had been smoking PCP at the time. A niece of Santiago's was also burned," the police boss added.
In the past year, authorities have infiltrated gangs that dealt firearms and drugs along 137th Street, between Lenox and Seventh avenues, and other prime drug spots in Manhattan.
Among them was former prep school student Afrika Owes, who struck a plea deal on charges that she helped run guns for the gang.