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An indictment charges 48 people with participating in a $10 milli

June 6, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ An indictment charges 48 people with participating in a $10 million-a-year drug gang that committed two murders and used children for street sales of heroin with catchy brand names like ``Body Bag.″

Forty members of the ``Champion Crew″ have been arrested, the rest remain fugitives here and in other states, and at least one fled the country, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Thursday.

Eight children, ages 12 to 15, were charged as juvenile offenders. The gang used children to transport drugs on bicycles, to steer customers to dealers, and for hand-to-hand sales, Morgenthau said.

The gang began on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and spread to five other states _ Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the indictment.

One suspect, Iris Monsegur, 27, supervised street deals by her 13-year-old nephew while holding her brother’s toddler son, Morgenthau charged.

The gang members are charged variously with conspiracy, drug and murder counts and all face sentences from a maximum of 25 years in prison to life. The children are subject to compulsory time in youth institutions if convicted.

The murder charges resulted from a 1993 street fight in which Jesse Vega slashed a gang leader’s face after being accused of stealing a gold chain from a gang underling. A Champion Crew member allegedly fired at Vega, missed him, and killed a bystander.

A few months later the slashed gang leader, Geoffrey Rodriguez, and the gang’s other leader, Peter Chin, shot and killed Vega inside a barbershop, Morgenthau said.

The gang distributed heroin under brand names that included ``Satisfaction,″ ``NYNEX,″ ``Dead Presidents,″ ``Blood Money,″ ``Lexus,″ ``Body Bag″ and ``Mad Dog.″

Assistant District Attorney Walter Arsenault said the gang changed brand names each time police broke up an operation. The change was meant to hide the fact that the same gangsters were starting business anew.

Ten of those named in the indictment were charged similarly in October, when 27 alleged members of the Hi-Speed gang _ a Champion Crew franchise _ were charged with drug offenses and using children in their drug operation.