NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police were rounding up 18 people in New York City Thursday on allegations they sold “party packs” of cocaine and sex to high-end clients and texted their customers to advertise ahead of this week’s Super Bowl festivities.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the arrests follow an 11-month investigation by the state Organized Crime Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security and the NYPD.
“Drug trafficking and prostitution are a scourge on communities across our state,” Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement on multi-agency investigations like this one to take down networks of criminals who exploit women and poison our communities for profit.”
About half of the 18 suspects had been arrested by 9 a.m. Thursday and brought to a Manhattan police precinct for processing before arraignment, a spokesman said.
Authorities said electronic and other surveillance and reviews of business records show the ring laundered money and credit cards through clothing, wig, beauty supply and limousine businesses and targeted wealthy, out-of-town customers, especially during large events. Prostitutes would bring cocaine to clients who ordered the so-called party packs.
While authorities say the criminal conspiracy extended to Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, the operation was based in Manhattan.
A text to regular customers saying “new sexy & beautiful girls R in town waiting for u” was sent 10 days before Sunday’s Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
The ring also promoted the suspects’ business with advertisements on the Internet and public access television, authorities said.
They allege that after clients were impaired by drugs, the ring would flood the room with additional prostitutes and repeatedly charge clients’ credit card, at times more than $10,000 for one night.
Through the front businesses, the group would charge credit cards for legitimate goods and services that were not provided, according to investigators.
“These criminals utilized apartments in residential buildings as a way of carrying out their illicit activities,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said. “They disregarded the safety and well-being of every member in those communities by providing a ‘one-stop shopping’ drug and prostitution ring.”
New Jersey has also implemented measures to crack down on sex trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl. Investigators are working on the ground and online to prevent human trafficking.
“There are things that go on connected to the Super Bowl that are not things that we would want connected,” Gov. Chris Christie said.
There are scant statistics and much debate over how much sex trafficking increases during a Super Bowl or other large sporting event, but it’s been enough of a concern to prompt New Jersey and previous Super Bowl host cities to pay attention to it.
Federal and local authorities have also heightened security at Super Bowl events in New York and New Jersey.
Bratton said his department is using extra officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and a vast network of surveillance cameras to detect trouble along the “Super Bowl Boulevard” street fair in Manhattan.
George Venizelos of the FBI also stressed to the public “if you see something, say something.”
New Jersey State Police will deploy up to 700 troopers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Another several hundred officers will be on rail platforms, at bus stations and aboard trains.
More than 100 security specialists are also working behind the scenes to keep the event safe.
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