With the arrest of notoriously elusive and influential drug dealer James Corley, the Queens-based “Supreme Team” street gang saw one of the final beams of its foundation tumble after the 51-year-old was charged on Thursday (May 18) with criminal sale of a controlled substance and other related drug charges.
NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that Corley was finally nabbed after a 15-month wiretap and surveillance operation although his savvy kept the drug supplier on the streets since the 1980. Corley supplied cocaine to another Queens street gang, the South Side Bloods, and other bit players who grossed about $15,000 a week. Forty-four other members of Corley's joint operation with Bloods and Supreme Team were also slapped with charges.
After realizing his phones were being tapped, Corley wisely avoided communication with the outside as members of his own organization weren't even aware of his location at times. NYPD's Detective David Leonardi put the case together, noting in the charges that the gangs used “Supreme Mathematics” and the “Supreme Alphabet,” the language system used by members of the Nation of Islam offshoot group Nation Of Gods and Earths (also known as “Five Percenters”). Leonardi was able to decipher the coded language, and the phone taps yielded news on illegal guns and a possible murder in South Carolina.
The Supreme Team came to prominence under the leadership Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, now serving life without parole after a 2007 conviction. McGriff was closely aligned to fellow Queens native Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo and reportedly poured money into Gotti's Murder, Inc. music operation. The Supreme Team was the bane of the NYPD since the late 80s, especially after the 1988 shooting of police officer Edward Byrne.
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