NEW YORK (AP) — Police were rounding up 18 people in New York City on 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.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office said the arrests follow an 11-month investigation by the state Organized Crime Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department. 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 in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which is expected to draw some well-heeled football fans to the city.
The ring also promoted the suspects' business with advertisements on the Internet and public access television and sometimes billed for cocaine as equivalent "hours" of prostitution, 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.
"Drug trafficking and prostitution are a scourge on communities across our state," Schneiderman said.