JACKSON SQ.—An undercover FBI and police investigation called Operation Brick House busted 23 people—most of them Jamaica Plain residents—on federal or state charges of dealing cocaine in and near the Bromley-Heath housing development.
The six-month investigation by the FBI and the local E-13 Police Drug Control Unit included Bromley-Heath residents who acted as “cooperating witnesses,” making drug purchases that were secretly audio- or video-recorded by authorities.
“The cases will be heard in courtrooms, but the effects will be felt on the corners, in the stairwells, and in the apartments of Bromley-Heath,” said Suffolk Country District Attorney Dan Conley in a press statement.
“A great job was done by everybody, and with help from the community,” said E-13 Police Capt. Kelley McCormick in a Gazette interview. “We think it was a very effective operation. There are still continuing investigations on this.”
The investigation also claims that many of the defendants are members of the Heath Street Gang, a Bromley-Heath gang with more than 100 members. The youngest
defendant is 16.
McCormick said the group is the main gang in the development and is also known as the Bromley-Heath Gang. “They go by a lot of monikers,” he said.
The gang’s warfare with other gangs, especially the Roxbury-based H-Bloc, reportedly resulted in about 20 local shootings since January, 2005. The victims reportedly include three of the people charged in the drug busts.
Among the defendants is Amos Carrasquillo, the man reportedly shot by police in Bromley-Heath two weeks ago after allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. That incident is not part of the federal charges and did not affect the timing of the Oct. 11 announcement of the busts, according to US Attorney Michael Sullivan’s office. [See related story.]
The defendants also include a father and son: Kenneth Whigham Sr. and Kenneth Whigham Jr.
Most of the defendants have already been arrested or were already in custody on unrelated charges.
David Worrell of the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation, which operates the development, did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.
In a court affidavit about the investigation, FBI Special Agent Michael Sieland said the operation “confirmed that Bromley-Heath is plagued by open air drug trafficking which represents a major threat to the well being of all persons who reside in the Project. In nearly six months of active drug purchasing, there were only a handful of days in which the CWs [cooperating witnesses] failed to buy crack or powder cocaine from the Targets [suspects] in the Project.”
All of the defendants are charged with trafficking mostly crack, but also some powder cocaine, in and around Bromley-Heath. Most of the defendants have residential addresses in the development. A drug-dealing conviction may subject them or their families to eviction under public housing rules.
Eighteen defendants face federal charges, while the others face state charges. Standard federal drug trafficking charges come with a 20-year maximum prison sentence. Dealing within 1,000 feet of a public housing development boosts it to a 40-year maximum. The most serious trafficking charges in this case involve 5-year minimum sentences and 80-year maximums.
Two of the federal defendants are also charged with using juveniles to sell drugs for them.
Eleven defendants reportedly were already banned from the development by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) for trespassing. The BHA no-trespassing lists have been controversial for banning residents from their own development. The policy is reportedly being rewritten after input from residents and the E-13 police.
Authorities emphasized that most Bromley-Heath residents are law-abiding, and claimed that the drug bust will help reduce crime.
Sieland’s affidavit noted that Bromley-Heath has about 10 percent of the residents in the E-13 police district, but produces about 30 percent of the violent crime. He also recalled the 1998 bust there by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Boston Police, where 28 people were hit with drug and gun charges.
BHA Police also assisted in the investigation.
Defendants facing federal charges include: Keith R. Allen, 34, 18 Walden St.; Raymond Badgett, 18, JP; Carl Barrows, 18, 1 Horan Way; Jiwan Battiste, 27, JP; Troy Bishop, 38, 58 Franklin Hill Ave., Dorchester; Aurelio Beltre, 35, 7 Wenham St.; Gerrod Brown, 22, 934 Parker St.; Damian Bush, 22, 287 Centre St.; Amos Carrasquillo, 18, 921 Parker St.; Luis Garcia Jr., 20, 15A Cornelia St., Mission Hill; Nathan Garrasteguy, 25, 129 Parker St.; Jameel Gibbons, 21, 30 Logan Way, South Boston; Myles Haynes, 36, 60 Bickford St.; Cyrus Jones, 22, 45 Centre St.; Robert Loving, 38, 64 Brunswick St., Dorchester; Luis Ramon Ortiz, 31, 138 Centre St.; Kenneth Whigham Sr., 43, 17 Horan Way; and Kenneth Whigham Jr., 24, 319 Centre St.
Defendants facing state charges include: Antonio Betacour, 34, 49 South St.; Nathaniel Edge, 43, 944 Parker St.; Jason Anthony Grahm, 17, 26 Alice Ave., Lynn; Dominique Hines, 17, 106 Heath St.; and an unnamed 16-year-old juvenile from Roxbury.
State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez said the bust shouldn’t be misinterpreted as meaning that Bromley-Heath is the sole source of crime in the area.
“I don’t think it’s fair to Bromley to say all issues are inside Bromley,” Sánchez said. “What’s going to make a difference here is community policing.”
This week, Sánchez drew attention to crime and traffic concerns at a location just outside the development, at the corner of Centre Street and Chestnut Avenue. He said he already hears many complaints about criminal activity and illegal parking on the lot, where a fruit stand business is about to move into a building next door. He brought McCormick, a Boston Transportation Department official and local leaders to the site Tuesday afternoon to examine it.
“That corner’s sort of in limbo,” he said.