HARLEM — Police arrested two men for running a "high-volume" marijuana operation in East Harlem Friday that operated out of the basement of a brownstone, recovering $35,000 worth of the drug, guns, $21,000 in cash, two pit bulls and an 8-foot-long python.
Police say that Mark Hansen and Manuel Bey, both of The Bronx, operated the drug ring out of 1 E. 124th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week.
Customers would line up in the first floor hallway of the building to purchase the drug, which the pair allegedly sold from behind a steel door with a slot in it. The building is across the street from a playground at Marcus Garvey Park.
Neighbors have been complaining about the drug operation for at least three years, police said.
An investigation by the NYPD Manhattan North Narcotics Squad began in April. Hansen, 34, and Bey, 25, allegedly made 10 bulk sales of marijuana to an undercover officer totaling six pounds and worth almost $10,000. Five of the sales were for a pound of marijuana or more with each pound selling for $1,200.
Police also allege that Hansen and Bey each sold a gun to the undercover officer with Hansen allegedly brokering the sales.
On Aug. 1, Hansen allegedly met the undercover officer at the 124th Street drug spot and traveled to 119th Street and Fifth Avenue where the officer gave $900 for a semiautomatic pistol with a defaced serial number.
On Aug. 21, Bey met the officer in the lobby of the 124th Street building. Wearing surgical gloves to handle the .9mm Ruger with a defaced serial number, Bey allegedly accepted $800 for the gun.
Police raided the basement yesterday afternoon and found the python in an aquarium along with the two pit bulls. The animals were turned over to the ASPCA. Police also say they recovered a loaded revolver, several pounds of marijuana and $1,200 in cash.
A search of Bey's apartment on Bristow Street in the Bronx also uncovered $19,200 in cash, an unloaded pistol, two high-capacity clips and a pound of marijuana, police said.
A search of Hansen's Van Nest Avenue apartment found 20 pounds of marijuana packed in freezer bags and stuffed in a suitcase in the bedroom which also contained a packaging work station with a scale, according to authorities.
"For years, a blatant, high volume marijuana trafficking spot flourished right across from the street children playing in Marcus Garvey Park. A series of prior arrests and search warrants at the location did not deter the operation - instead it branched out into gun sales," said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan in a statement.
Bey's lawyer Eric Siegle said his client is being held on trumped up charges.
"These two gentlemen have been overcharged in a very aggressive NYPD investigation. At best, these two men are low level marijuana dealers," said Siegle.
He also disputed the gun charges, saying his client has no "significant criminal history."
"In this situation, they were lured or entrapped by the police into selling a gun to an undercover officer, a crime they might not have committed," Siegle said.
Also arrested in relation to the case was Hansen's wife Lace Ramsey, who was taken into custody outside of the alleged East Harlem drug spot, and Bey's brother Christopher Bey who will be arraigned at a later date.
Hansen is facing two counts of the criminal sale of a firearm and 7 criminal marijuana sales counts. Bey is facing one count for the sale of a firearm and 7 counts for the sale of marijuana.
"Dealers felt the potential for violence great enough that two pit bulls, an eight foot long python and a loaded gun were kept with the stash. The neighborhood will be much safer with this operation shuttered," said Brennan.