Search Warrant Executed in Villa Avenue Apartment

Members of Community Board 7 and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor share a belief: Villa Avenue has a drug problem.

Officers from the NYPD’s Gang Unit searched an apartment on Villa Avenue on the morning of Wednesday, February 23 and turned up a weapons cache, allegedly belonging to the apartment’s inhabitants, that included assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols, as well as four bags of cocaine, eight ounces of marijuana and several electronic scales. Two men were arrested in the apartment, brothers Victor and Tonin Miri, and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s office, which will handle the case, says drugs were allegedly being dealt from the apartment.

“We have received various complaints about quality of life issues and drug activity on Villa Avenue,” CB 7 district manager Fernando Tirado said in an e-mail. “We have worked with the 52nd Precinct’s Community Affairs Unit to address the problem and we continue to monitor it.”

Victor Miri, 29, who has a previous felony conviction for fourth degree grand larceny, was the target of the arrest warrant. His bail was set at $200,000 and is expected to make bail, according his lawyer, but was still incarcerated as of Tuesday, March 1.

“We believed it was a cocaine distribution center,” Catherine Christian of the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor said of the apartment.

Tonin Miri, 30, who was released from federal prison in May 2008, has been released on $15,000 bail, which was posted by a family member, according to the brothers’ Bronx-based defense attorney Stacey Richman.

“Tonin is not the target of the investigation and was at the apartment by happenstance,” Richman said.

Fernando Tirado said that the 52nd Precinct has had an increased presence on Villa Avenue since last summer to combat both drug and gang activity.

Initial news reports said that the Miri brothers were part of an Albanian street gang known as “the Yaks,” but Christian said that was not part of her office’s case against the brothers.

Richman said that as far as she knows, both brothers have lived in the Bronx their whole lives.

The police complaint says mail addressed to the defendants, at the apartment’s address, was found during the search.

The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor has city-wide jurisdiction to prosecute any narcotic-related felonies, so the Miris will have their first hearing on Thursday, March 17 in Manhattan Criminal Court.The charges carry up to 25 years in prison and include, first, second and third degree criminal possession of a weapon, third degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, third degree marijuana possession and second degree use of drug paraphernalia.

Police say the weapons stash included 12 firearms, 7 pistols and 5 assault weapons, a bullet proof vest, two sets of night vision goggles, four scales, empty baggies, an automatic money counter and a grinder they say is used to break down cocaine.

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