In October 2007, federal drug enforcement agents were questioning a man who had been arrested in the Bronx on gun and drug charges when he began to talk about someone he depicted as “one of the most powerful men in all of Jamaica,” records show.
The Jamaica Gleaner, via Associated Press
The man, Lloyd Reid, said he was referring to Christopher Coke .
In seeking Mr. Coke’s extradition, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, has charged that for more than a decade he has controlled an international drug ring from his neighborhood stronghold of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston. Prosecutors say Mr. Coke’s operatives in New York send him part of their drug proceeds and buy guns that they ship to him.
In Jamaica, he distributes the firearms, bolstering his authority and influence, a federal indictment charges.
The prosecutor’s office has not made public its extradition papers against Mr. Coke, but court records in New York show that investigators have been building a case against him through court-approved wiretaps and the questioning of people like Mr. Reid.
The records offer a snapshot of how investigators believe Mr. Coke’s influence extends to the streets of New York, and suggest how the drug dealing here may have helped fortify what the indictment calls Mr. Coke’s garrison community in Jamaica, “a barricaded neighborhood guarded by a group of armed gunmen.”
Prosecutors have said that Mr. Reid, who was convicted last year of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and is serving a five-year prison sentence, was an enforcer for Mr. Coke in New York.
In talks with agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mr. Reid said he had a close relationship with Mr. Coke because his brother had once served as Mr. Coke’s “right-hand man” in Jamaica before he was murdered, records show.
But there was another reason, Mr. Reid told agents. He and Mr. Coke became close because they spent time together in the Bronx, where Mr. Coke once lived, according to testimony by Eric Baldus, one of the drug enforcement agents who interviewed Mr. Reid.
That Mr. Coke lived in the United States is not widely known; officials say he was convicted in 1988 in North Carolina of possession of stolen property and deported the following year.
Mr. Reid said he was often called upon to resolve disagreements among Mr. Coke’s operatives because people knew of his relationship with Mr. Coke, the notes show. And when problems needed resolution by a higher authority, he indicated, he relayed information to Mr. Coke.
“Coke is the one who has the power to stop or settle all disputes,” Mr. Reid stated, the notes show.
Mr. Reid’s lawyer, Jeremy Schneider, disputes the government’s characterization of his client. Mr. Schneider noted that Mr. Reid was convicted in a conspiracy that involved less than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. He was also convicted of robbery conspiracy but acquitted of using a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.
“He was found guilty of being a low-level marijuana dealer,” Mr. Schneider said. “He was clearly not a high-level operative representing Coke in the United States.” He added that there was “a previous familial relationship” between Mr. Coke and his client’s family.
Prosecutors say that while guns and money were sent to Jamaica as part of Mr. Coke’s operation, he and his organization, called the Shower Posse, also sent something back — they provided protection for their operatives in the United States.
The relationship between the operatives and “supporters in Jamaica was critical to the ability to traffic in marijuana here,” Jocelyn Strauber, a federal prosecutor, said in a pretrial proceeding in Mr. Reid’s case.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that some of their evidence comes from court-authorized surveillance of what they call Mr. Coke’s co-conspirators.
A transcript of one call, which was introduced at Mr. Reid’s trial last year in Federal District Court in Manhattan, shows him discussing Mr. Coke with a close associate. Mr. Reid quotes Mr. Coke as saying, “You represent me in America,” the document shows.
Mr. Reid also quotes Mr. Coke as saying: “Don’t you see our thing is a worldwide thing? Nobody will mess with us.”
Mr. Coke, 41, has been charged with conspiring to distribute marijuana and cocaine and to illegally traffic in firearms. If he is extradited and convicted, he could face a life sentence.