Photo Courtesy of Queens DA’s Office
The crew that was the subject of “Operation Ace in the Hole” trafficked guns in addition to selling drugs.
By Forum Staff
Two interconnected illegal enterprises selling drugs and firearms throughout Jamaica have been dismantled with the recent arrests of eight defendants, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced Saturday.
The DA’s Office identified the main culprits as Jamaica residents Steven Campbell, 37, Charles Gillespie, 19, an unnamed defendant, 17, and Javial Davis, 28. The defendants are variously charged with conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal sale of a firearm and other crimes, Katz said.
According to the DA’s Office and NYPD, utilizing court-authorized warrants, surveillance, undercover buys and other investigative tools, the District Attorney’s newly formed Violent Criminal Enterprise Bureau—formerly the Narcotics Investigations Bureau—along with the Gun Recidivist Investigations Program—part of the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Division—conducted two separate on-going investigations dubbed “Operation Blast Off” and “Operation Ace in the Hole.” Undercover detectives investigated dealers distributing both guns and drugs in Queens and allegedly discovered a common thread—a single drug supplier that provided narcotics to both crews.
According to the charges, the Operation Blast Off investigation began in November 2018 and focused on the alleged criminal activity of Campbell, who on several occasions allegedly sold drugs to a buyer who was actually an undercover detective. Meets were set up with this “buyer” at a Queens gym used as cover, with the drug-for-cash exchange occurring inside a vehicle right outside the business.
In November 2019, Operation Ace in the Hole commenced and infiltrated a second network of alleged drug traffickers that included gun runners. Gillespie, an unnamed cohort, and another co-defendant allegedly sold cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. The crew also allegedly sold illegal guns—transported into Jamaica via weekly deliveries by another co-defendant who allegedly supplied them with narcotics as well. The separate investigations connected when it became apparent that a suspect of the Operation Blast Off investigation was also the alleged drug supplier to the crew being pursued by Operation Ace in the Hole law enforcement agents.
According to the complaints, Gillespie is charged with selling six firearms, multiple high-capacity magazines, and several rounds of ammunition in other instances to a “buyer” who was an undercover detective. Purchase prices for guns ranged from $500 to $1,100 each. Gillespie also allegedly reached out to his customer base weekly with offerings of new merchandise from the weekly deliveries.
Law enforcement executed a court-authorized search warrant at the residents of Gillespie and allegedly recovered more than 45 grams of cocaine, cash and a single 9mm bullet. Police also allegedly found Gillespie to have in his possession a scale containing cocaine residue, additional cash, 2 cell phones and a twist containing a quantity of cocaine.
Additional court-authorized searches were executed at the homes of Campbell, Chad Taylor, 40, Samuel Wilson, 40, and Carlton Powell, 22. Police allegedly recovered two grams of cocaine at an apartment on Jamaica Avenue and 36 grams of cocaine from inside a speaker at an apartment on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard.
“Even during this global pandemic, our on-going investigations continued with 11 guns seized and several ounces of cocaine and quantities of fentanyl and heroin taken off our streets,” Katz added.