They came hellbent on finding drugs and a gang boss - but it was the wrong apartment, a shaken Washington Heights family said on Thursday.
Authorities stormed in looking for drugs, laughed at photos of them in bikinis and left when they realized they had made a mistake, a mother and her daughter told the Daily News.
While U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents - backed up by city cops - were turning their home upside down, a third law enforcement division was a quarter mile away busting the real bad guy.
Calixta Guerrero, 48, and her daughter, Jessica Suriel, 19, were outraged, saying their rights were trampled.
"I feel very bad about the whole thing," Guerrero said. "The man they were looking for, we have no idea who he is."
The suspect being sought, Carlos Ruiz, 34, a boss in the Trinitarios gang, was arrested at the same time, just past 6 a.m., by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Suriel, a college student, said she was humiliated and degraded. "They had big guns in front of our faces," she said, "and I'm screaming, 'It's just me and my mom. We don't know this guy.'"
The federal search warrant, signed by Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, decribes Guerrero's apartment, at 700 W. 175th St., as a stash house.
Authorities couldn't say what led them to believe Ruiz or drugs were inside Guerrero's home. Ruiz's lawyer, Barry Weinstein, volunteered that his client once lived in the building, in an apartment several doors down on the very same floor.
The Trinitarios gang investigation involves the ATF, the NYPD and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The ATF was not part of the raid on the home, but the DEA was there with NYPD backup.
It all went down as Guerrero was waiting for a relative for whom she baby-sits. When authorities banged on her door, she told them she needed a moment to cover up, because she was only in her underwear.
"Open the f-----g door, right now!" she remembers them yelling. She complied, she said, and about a dozen investigators rushed inside, forced her to the kitchen floor and cuffed her.
One investigator pored through the daughter's computer files, laughing and leering, along with a partner, at a photo of the two on the beach, Suriel said. "When they left, they said they were sorry," she said.
Bart Guerrero, 44, Calixta's brother, rushed to the apartment after the bumbling investigators cleared out.
"I still can't believe what happened," he said. "This was a violation of everyone's rights.
"They walked all over them."
A DEA spokesperson said agents had a valid search warrant for the apartment and the resident consented to the search.
BY Rocco Parascandola and Alison Gendar
September 11, 2009
NY Daily News
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