Drugs on the East Side, gambling on the west — 32 busted in narcotics, poker operation
Thirty-two people were busted Friday in a drug and gambling operation that peddled cocaine and heroin in the East Village and hosted nightly poker games in Greenwich Village, authorities said.
The eight-month probe started as a classic drug investigation, built with tips from informants leading to a sting in which a NYPD undercover officer made a number of buys, authorities said.
The cocaine and heroin were stashed in an E. Fifth St. home linked to one of the suspects, authorities said. Two other suspects were at some point seen leaving a building on Sixth Ave. prior to selling to the undercover.
That building, it turned out, housed the card-game operation, which provided additional revenue to finance illicit drug buys, authorities said.
Some of the card players lost upwards of $20,000 a night — but the setting was anything but posh.
“It was fairly disheveled,” said Det. Robert Garland. But the game still drew a fair number of doctors, cops said.
The “poker house,” as authorities dubbed it, was open from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.
It made steady money, with players in lower-stake games on the first floor required to buy at least $200 in chips. Players in the higher-stake games held upstairs had a buy-in of $500.
Garland said players found the game on meetup.com and connected by phone with one of the suspects, Geeta (Mira) Singh, 43.
“She’ll give you code,” Garland said. “She’ll ask for your ID … You would go to the location and you would show that code or show the ID to the promoter, and that’s how you go in and start playing.”
Players who hadn’t heard of the bust were disappointed Friday night when arrived at the poker room only to find their game was shut down.
“For people who like to play, there aren’t many options in the city,” said a man who said he’d been visiting the Village poker hot spot for about six months.
“It was a good bunch of people,” the man said of his fellow players. “Very eclectic.”
The poker room’s decor was very stripped down, and there was no bar or any other amenities, the player said. He said he never witnessed any drug dealing there.
The idea of a bust was on the minds of the gambling den’s half-dozen employees, said the man, who declined to give his name.
“Everyone always talked about it … they were like, ‘Whatever. I’ll be out in 48 hours if it happens.””
The case is being prosecuted by the office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, whose chief of investigations, Joseph Tesoriero, said it’s important to remember the drug epidemic is not just about users.
“Society’s answer to the heroin epidemic needs to be multifaceted,” he said. “But let’s not forget that there are people who neither use nor are addicted to drugs, but sell them to those who are simply to make money.”
The arrests began at 1 a.m. Friday. Cops busted suspects in New York, Florida and Massachusetts. Singh, who was charged with promoting gambling, was arrested in Georgia.
Those involved with drugs were hit with narcotics possession, sale and conspiracy charges, and those linked to the poker house were charged with promoting gambling.
Authorities recovered $125,000 cash and two guns. The drugs seized include two pounds of cocaine from the E. Fifth St. stashhouse.