Sunset Park is on edge after an arrest of a resident, who allegedly sent drugs through the mail from his house near 46th Street and 7th Avenue, set off fears of ICE agents in a primarily immigrant neighborhood.
U.S Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY7) rebuked the “heavy police presence” and sent a letter to the United States Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale demanding answers for the conduct and “force” of USPIS officers who raided the home and reportedly didn’t properly identify themselves, causing other residents to believe USPIS officers were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
“Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement agents who conduct investigations of postal-related crime, such as mail fraud and theft, violent crimes against postal employees, revenue fraud, dangerous mail, illegal drugs in the mail, and child exploitation conducted via the mail. We routinely partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations,” said USPIS in response to KCP.
However, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson confirmed that their “officers were not present, nor involved in the arrests that took place in Sunset Park, Oct. 21.”
“As you know, public distrust of law enforcement has increased significantly given the deaths of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other innocent civilians,” wrote Velázquez. “This is not the first time federal agents have generated confusion and anxiety in our community. Earlier this year, immigration agents in Brooklyn shot a man in the face during an immigration enforcement operation. This recent incident by postal inspection officers, who allegedly lead this arrest with little to no advance coordination with local law enforcement, has seriously deteriorated the community’s trust.”
The USPIS, according to The Brooklyn Paper reporting, “broke down the door of the 46th Street house at around 7 am, before interrogating the non-English speaking Chinese man” in question. They go on to describe the chaotic scene between ICE protesters and the NYPD police who showed up to assist the USPIS.
Residents were quoted expressing their complete distrust for law enforcement because of several reported ICE raids in Fort Greene and Red Hook and anti-immigrant rhetoric from President Donald Trump and his policies.
“It is my understanding that officers were executing a search and arrest warrant related to the mailing of controlled substances via the postal service. My staff have been advised that officers arrived at the door and violently knocked it down to gain entry into the premises. Because of reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity in the area, a number of community members believed that these officers were affiliated with immigration enforcement or removal operations. To add to the confusion, officers would not identify themselves or produce a warrant when asked,” wrote Velázquez.
“Yesterday, October 21, 2020, Postal Inspectors conducted a law enforcement operation with multiple agencies, executing search and arrest warrants issued by the Western District of Washington (state) in support of an Inspection Service investigation. A press release from the Western District of Washington was released yesterday. No further details can be provided at this time,” said a spokesperson for USPIS.
The press release notes that the indictment charges against Chee Choong Ng, the man arrested by Postal Inspection agents, and seven others in the “conspiracy” ring include “manufactur[ing] and distribut[ion of] marijuana, as well as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and manufacturing marijuana with intent to distribute.”
In each of the indictments, said the USPIS, the government has filed for forfeiture of properties associated with the conspirators, and if convicted the defendants face a mandatory minimum ten years in prison because of the amount of illegal weed involved.
“It’s clear the leaders of this organization contributed widely to the illegal marijuana drug trade in the Pacific Northwest,” said USPIS Inspector in Charge Anthony Galetti in the press release.
“Illegal grow operations such as these, with their extensive networks, have a wide reaching and destructive impact to the communities they inhabit. With these arrests and seizures of illegal marijuana grow operations, we bring down one of the largest networks in the region. This should serve as a reminder to the community that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our local, state, and federal partners, continues working diligently to keep any and all prohibited substances out of the US Mail,” said Galetti.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated Thursday with USPIS response.