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Angel dust back in New York, drug ring busted

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Angel dust, the scourge of New York City in the 1970s, is back in the hands of drug dealers, including one Harlem ring that used an 8-year-old boy as a lookout while it operated out of neighborhood apartment houses, police said on Wednesday.

Authorities arrested 35 men in the drug ring that made $1.5 million in profit from street sales of $10 PCP bags from October 2010 to January 2012, said police commissioner Raymond Kelly at a news conference.

Two brothers, Lamont Moultrie, 41, and Bernard Moultrie, 39, were indicted on a charge of operating as a major trafficker under a recent drug kingpin law that carries a potential life sentence.

The drug bust was the result of a 15-month investigation that culminated in a search of Lamont Moultrie's apartment in Harlem on Wednesday, Kelly said.

Police found $39,000 and 2.5 gallons of liquid PCP in Hawaiian Punch bottles, he said.

"Now that is a lot of PCP," Kelly said.

The Department of Justice said PCP, also known as angel dust, was originally developed in the 1950s as an anesthetic, but was quickly discontinued because it often gave patients violent hallucinations.

It was a popular street drug sold in New York City in the 1970s and Kelly was asked if the drug bust indicates angel dust is back as the narcotic of choice.

"It sort of ebb and flowed," Kelly said. "I don't think it ever went away, but it seems it has gained favor and come back."

Prosecutor Cyrus Vance Wednesday said 15 shootings, four of them murders, have taken place around the same time and place of the PCP operation. Though none of the people arrested Wednesday have been charged with the shootings, the "simply unacceptable" violence is related to drug spikes in the neighborhood, he said.

"Neighbors told us directly that they walked in their hallways in fear as their community filled up every afternoon with people who were selling and buying drugs," Vance said at the news conference.

Drug dealing often took place in neighborhood apartment houses around the time local schools let out. Among those in the drug ring was an 8-year-old boy who kept a lookout for police and steered customers to dealers, authorities said.

"Obviously this young boy is a victim of the operations of others, but it just goes shows you the pernicious impact an organization like this can have on a community and how important it is for us to end it," Vance said.

Police inspector Lori Pollock said the boy, a nephew of one of the men arrested Wednesday, is now under care of child protective services.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch)

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