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‘Ghost’ Busters

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Hardly a week goes by that we don’t report on a gang-related shooting or homicide in southeast Queens. Often the victims are innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The drug dealers and gangs turned the projects into a war zone. While violent crime has been in record decline in other parts of the city, it is still too high in some Queens neighborhoods.

For that reason, we welcome the news that in May the NYPD and the Queens district attorney arrested 44 people involved in “Operation South Side.” The arrests included the suspected leaders of two drug gangs in southeast Queens and were the result of a 15-month-long investigation.

We assume undercover officers risked their lives to collect the evidence needed to make this bust possible. We salute the bravery of everyone involved.

Among those arrested was a 51-year-old man from Rochdale Village named James Corley. This creep’s nickname is “The Ghost” and his modus operandi shows just how difficult it is to apprehend and make a case against drug kingpins.

Police say Corley got his start in southeast Queens as a member of the notorious Supreme Team, which operated during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. The same Supreme Team was responsible for the 1988 fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed while sitting in his patrol car in South Jamaica.

To get “The Ghost” and his crew, the Queens Gang Squad, had to break the code of a secret language allegedly used by Corley’s group in the purchase and distribution of drugs and guns.

The operation also resulted in the arrest in January of 33-year-old Allen “Fat Boy” Mitchell, of South Jamaica, who police say was the drug supplier for the South Side Bloods.

According to the DA’s office, “Fat Boy” pleaded guilty to the criminal sale of a control substance in February and was sentenced to between 1 1/2 and three years in prison.

No one is saying the war is over in southeast Queens, but through dedication, courage and persistence the police and prosecutors have won a major victory. If the police are correct, at least two major gangs have been cut off at the head and those not yet arrested have to be worried about the next knock on the door.

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