James Corley, 51, a leading member of the notorious Queens, NY drug dealing gang known as the Supreme Team, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance - along with a slew of other drug charges.
The NYPD captured Corley after a 15-month undercover investigation that used wiretaps and surveillance.
According to the Associated Press, Corley, who got his start during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and was known as "the ghost," was arrested with 44 other people charged with drug crimes.
Corley supplied cocaine to a second gang called the South Side Bloods, and low-level dealers grossed about $15,000 a week in drug sales, Kelly said. Burned by a wiretap before, Corley used at least eight different phones, authorities said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said:
"He had an uncanny ability to keep his associates in the dark. No one knew where he lived, what phone number he used, what car he drove."
The case was pieced together by Detective David Leonardi, who said the dealers used a language called the "5 percenter," where every number and letter had its own word and members decoded messages about drug orders. The wiretaps also netted information on illegal guns and a possible killing in South Carolina.
Corley came of age during the crack era of the late 1980s and was an associate of the Supreme Team, which controlled housing projects and corners in Queens, the ground zero of the crack epidemic in New York. Crime was rampant; in 1990, the number of murders hit an all-time high of 2,245.
New York Police Department Capt. James Ryan said the takedown this week finally signaled the end of the remnants of the team that had terrorized Queens for decades.
"We feel it's pretty much dismantled now with Corley being taken out of the picture," he said. "It remains to be seen, we're always vigilant and we think this is the end of them."
The Supreme Team was well known in hip-hop circles, as they were once led by legendary street hustler Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, who reputedly funneled drug money into rap music label Murder Inc. He's now serving life without parole for a pair of murders after a 2007 conviction.