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Welcome to Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York


Diagramming Newburgh’s Bloods proved trickier. Despite the gang’s vast membership, it was a looser enterprise, and at any given moment many of the key players were in jail. Fortunately, before the task force started work, several state and local detectives had made a map of all the schools in Newburgh, knowing they could obtain stiffer penalties for drug crimes committed within a thousand feet of a school. They swung a compass in circumference around each school, and realized, to their delight, that because Newburgh was so small, it was nearly impossible to find a street corner to sell narcotics that wasn’t in the zone of one school or another. These case files became a starting point for Gagliano’s team, which then did months of surveillance and interviews with informants to develop a rough picture of the Newburgh Bloods’ ever-fluctuating org chart.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the task force, when it identified these drug sales, was not to interfere with them. The methodical collection of detail necessary for a major conspiracy case can run counter to the professional imperatives of local police. In your standard “buy and bust” scenario, a cop orchestrates an undercover buy from a street dealer, then cuffs him the moment the drugs change hands. But a federal case requires patience. So the task force arranged undercover buys and let them proceed—all the while running comprehensive surveillance so that each offense could eventually be tallied in court.

Gagliano’s team members did their research, and most of the time they knew who would turn up at a buy. But occasionally there were surprises. One night, the task force was orchestrating one of these stings when someone other than the Blood they were expecting suddenly appeared.

It was Delroy.

Gagliano tensed. He thought about his options. Can I intervene? Can I wave it off? Can I tell them, when we get back, we’re not charging him?

But he knew he could do none of those things. And because the task force was still gathering evidence and not yet making arrests, Delroy headed home that night with no idea that he’d been made.

By May of last year, the task force had accumulated enough evidence to start rounding people up. In the predawn darkness one overcast morning, almost two years to the day after Jeffrey Zachary’s murder, scores of official vehicles began to quietly mass by an abandoned armory on South William Street. In the musty, cavernous interior, Gagliano stood in a vast drill hall that had once been used by soldiers to ride horses. He had not slept all night, a habit from his SWAT days. Assembled before him in the dim light were 500 armed agents, cops, and state troopers. This would be the first of the federal raids in Newburgh, and the most ambitious. Jumping onto a table to be heard, Gagliano issued final instructions. “Be careful out there,” he said. “No blue on blue.”

The cavalry left the armory and fanned across the city, charging into houses and apartments, swinging battering rams and tossing stun grenades. Dozens of groggy young men were escorted, blinking, into the street. The task force made 64 arrests that day. Using RICO, they would ultimately indict what they believe is the full leadership of the Bloods and the Latin Kings—including two alleged members of the Kings’ Crown Council, Wilson Pagan and Jose Lagos, who, according to the indictment, ordered the hit that killed Jeffrey Zachary.

“Talk about satisfaction,” Gagliano says. But the victory had a few complications. Fourteen of the men on the indictment that morning were nowhere to be found, so Gagliano deployed the Marshals Service to track each fugitive down. For a few flickering moments, Manhattanites were afforded a glimpse of the gang war in the Hudson Valley when the FBI flashed images of the Newburgh fugitives on one of the jumbo screens in Times Square.

Among the missing was Delroy. He wasn’t at home when the task force came barging in that morning, and after a week passed and he could not be found, it appeared that he had gone underground.

Gagliano decided to reach out to the family directly. He convinced them that Delroy needed to turn himself in, and promised that he would come personally, and alone; there would be no guns drawn.

At the appointed hour, Delroy appeared at the Boys and Girls Club on Liberty Street. It was an awkward reunion. Gagliano explained that he was going to drive Delroy to the armory, where he would be processed. He told Delroy that he didn’t have a choice, that had his own son turned up at the buy, he would have had to do the same thing.


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