01/19/2012 01:06 pm ET

PCP Drug Ring Run By 'Kings of Dust' Busted In Harlem

NEW YORK -- A drug ring in Harlem that specialized in the sale of PCP and used an 8-year-old boy as a lookout has been busted, New York City police and prosecutors said Wednesday.

Police arrested 35 people and recovered nearly $40,000 in cash and 2.5 gallons of liquid PCP in Hawaiian Punch bottles. The drug, also called angel dust, was sprayed on crushed mint leaves and sold for $10 per bag, prosecutors said. Hundreds of sales were allegedly conducted every day in the courtyard of a public housing project in East Harlem that functioned as an open-air drug market.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. called the drug ring a "vast conspiracy" that yielded profits of more than $1 million per year.

"Residents in the neighborhood where this drug ring operated told us that they walked their hallways and streets in fear, as their community was overrun every day with people buying and selling drugs," Vance said at a press conference.

PCP, developed as an anesthetic, has both narcotic and hallucinogenic effects. It can cause paranoia and psychosis, as well as aggression and violence.

An 8-year-old boy allegedly employed by the dealers as a lookout has been placed in the care of the city's Administration for Children's Services, police said.

The arrests marked the end of a 15-month joint investigation, called Operation Kings of Dust, by the New York City Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Two alleged leaders of the ring, brothers Lamont Moultrie, 41, and Bernard Moultrie, 39, have been charged as major traffickers under New York state's "drug kingpin" statute and face life in prison if convicted. In addition to PCP, the ring also trafficked in heroin and cocaine, according to prosecutors and police.

"One of the reasons why crime has plummeted by 70 percent and more in Harlem over the last two decades has been sustained attention to combating drug dealing and the inevitable violence associated with it," said New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

"Angel dust produces only victims, and the arrest and prosecution of its dealers helps protect the hard-fought gains in these neighborhoods," Kelly said.