Brownsville basketball star pleads not guilty to running heroin ring
A beloved former NCAA and American Basketball Association star accused of running a multimillion dollar heroin ring pleaded not guilty to 56 charges on Tuesday at Brooklyn Supreme Court.
James “Fly” Williams, 65, was arrested on May 4 for operating as a major trafficker in violation of New York’s drug kingpin statute for allegedly running a $20 million heroin distribution ring that operated throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx and upstate, selling in retail and bulk amounts.
Williams, in oversized prison garb, pleaded not guilty before Judge Danny Chun and is being held in custody without bail on a laundry list of drug and weapon possessions and other charges.
“Avid basketball fans have heard of him. In the 1970s, he was a high school superstar and college basketball prodigy,” Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said when he announced the arrests.
Williams’s lawyer, Allana Alexander, who is prepared to fight the allegations, said, “It will all come out with time.”
If convicted, the basketball prodigy could face 25 years to life in prison.
Williams allegedly purchased the drugs from suppliers in the Bronx and distributed them across Brownsville, Bushwick, Flatbush, Fort Greene, Canarsie and other neighborhoods.
The ring distributed about 2 million glassines of heroin in three months, which have a typical street value of $6 to $10, authorities said.
A tip from a Brooklyn resident set police off on the eight-month-long investigation that used wiretaps, surveillance and undercover buying between September 2016 and May 2017, according to court documents. There were 20 other members arrested on various charges.
Williams and his crew were allegedly buying upwards of $30,000 of heroin weekly to distribute in fake Pringles cans and other containers.
With the opioid crisis on the rise, Brooklyn and the Bronx have had the highest overdose deaths in New York City in recent years. Brooklyn had 223 overdose deaths in 2015, according to a statement by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Williams has a history of addiction and has used his stories to educate youth in Brownville to deter them from the drug life. He also used his power in the sports realm to connect youth to NBA scholarships.
“That someone with his stature in a community, with his influence on young people, would run such a substantial narcotics operation is truly said and reprehensible,” Gonzalez said.
There were more than 1,370 overdose deaths across New York in 2016, according to a report by the Daily News. That same year in Brooklyn, there were almost more than three times as many overdoses than homicide deaths.
Along with Williams, those arrested on the indictment include: Jeffrey Britt, 34, Richard Rivera, 45, Hanziel Martinez Cintron, 39, Leezet Kelley, 45, LaToya Mark, 37, Maurice McGhee, 49, Charles Moore, 57, Charles Morgan, 61, Tyrone Munford, 55, Michael Rosoboro, 61, Daniel Brown, Daniel Brown Jr., Marlon Campbell, Luz Deleon, Gabriel Laureano, Berqui Rafael Espinal Gomez, Maurice McGhee, Jose Raymond, Heidy Ventura, Miguel Ventura, Frederick Ward and James Williams, 36.
Williams is set to appear next in court on Sept. 13.
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