The Bronx connection

Notorious gang has deep roots in Kingston

by Jesse J. Smith
April 28, 2011 02:20 PM | 1 1 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In 1993, Kingston police executed a search warrant at a house on Prospect Street looking for drugs and dealers. Among the haul that night was a burly 19-year-old from the Bronx named Peter Rollack.

It was Rollack’s first felony charge. It would not be his last. In the half-decade between his arrest in Kingston and his imprisonment for life plus 105 years on racketeering charges, “Pistol Pete” would transform a crew of crack dealers from the Soundview housing projects into a powerhouse vehicle for the importation of West-Coast gang culture to New York and beyond. In that time Rollack would fold his “Soundview Murderers” crew, renamed Sex Money Murder (SMM). into one of the original eight “sets” of the East Coast Bloods. They spread a code of violence, intimidation and silence that still resonates in Kingston.

“For the kids in Sex Money Murder today, he’s the godfather,” said Kingston police gang expert and detective sergeant Bob Henry. “He lived out what these kids aspire to be.”

Indeed, 16 years later and within a stone’s throw of the house where Rollack took his first felony collar, Sex Money Murder disciples  stalked and murdered Charles King Jr. for breaking the code of silence by testifying against a gang member. Henry said that King’s murder, while shocking even to the veteran gang investigator, was a faithful expression of the SMM creed and Rollack’s legacy.

“Part of the Pistol Pete legend was that he killed witnesses. It became part of that set’s culture,” said Henry. “What happened here was a picture of what had happened in the history of Sex Money Murder before.”


From the Cell Block to the Streets

According to what Henry calls “Street legend” the East Coast Bloods were born on Riker’s Island in 1993 when Omar “O.G. Mack” Portee and Leonard “Deadeye” McKenzie began recruiting African-American inmates to challenge the then-dominant Latin Kings gang for control of a particularly tough unit at the jail. Using the template of the notorious Los Angeles Bloods street gang, the pair developed gang codes, hand signs, rules and regulations, and a rank structure. Once the gang was established at Riker’s, they began grooming a generation of “OGs” (Original Gangsters) to take their philosophy to the streets of New York’s five boroughs.

The result was eight original “Sets” of the United Bloods Nation (UBN). Each was built around an existing crew with a reputation as a tough presence in the crack cocaine wars then raging on New York’s streets. Portee’s own crew, based around 183 St. and Davidson Avenue in the Bronx became the One-Eight-Trey bloods. McKenzie’s Harlem-based drug crew took on the Blood Code and the name Nine-Trey Gangsta’s. Rollack, who spent much of the early 90’s in and out of Riker’s on drug and gun charges had been identified as one of the most promising recruits. By 1995 Rollack was locked in a North Carolina jail facing federal drug charges after he was caught with a carload of cocaine in a Charlotte suburb. From his jail cell, Rollack agreed to link his Soundview crew to the nascent UBN.

“They chose him because he was already the recognized leader of a gang,” said Lou Savelli, a retired NYPD Sergeant who founded the department’s gang unit not long after the first UBN sets hit the streets. “He was tough, he was a shooter, and he was a very charismatic leader.”

The Bloods’ franchising efforts were successful in building a national brand. According to Savelli, now a private security consultant, taking on the mantle of the Bloods allowed neighborhood drug crews to expand their reach and strength, tapping into the aura of power and menace associated with the LA gang’s newfound notoriety via the emergence of Gangsta Rap.

“You had people who were already in gangs, who were already criminals, but now instead of four or five guys in your crew you’ve got 35,” said Savelli. “They wanted that national identity because they felt they could get respect from it.”

For the Sex Money Murder gang, the blood affiliation transformed a relatively small drug crew into veritable street army. Drugs were transported around the East Coast in vehicles provided by a gang-owned leasing company, allowing members easy access to clean cars and ensuring that vehicles seized by police would make their way back to the gang. A record label gave SMM access to the world of hip-hop celebrity. The gang’s exploits were recounted in graphic (though coded) detail by artists like Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz. From his jail cell Rollack penned lyrics for major rappers that Savelli said, served as coded hit-lists directing members to take out suspected snitches and in one notorious case, a Bronx homicide detective.

The Set was also gaining a reputation for wild violence. Seemingly random beatings, slashings and robberies by young “Blazers” drove home the gang’s dominance over neighborhoods and offered recruits an avenue to advancement in the set. On Thanksgiving Day 1997, a group of SMM gunmen acting on orders from Rollack opened fire on a neighborhood touch football game killing two suspected informants and wounding three bystanders.

Among the first generation of recruits to the newly minted Bloods set was alleged Kingston Sex Money Murder leader Gary “G-Money” Griffin. Griffin, facing a charge of first degree murder in King’s killing described the gang’s impact on Soundview in the 1990’s when he was a teenager. Griffin said that the gang dominated projects and the surrounding neighborhood, organizing basketball tournaments, buying ice cream for kids and garnering respect and recruits.

“The whole neighborhood was Sex Money Murder,” said Griffin who, by the late 90’s had appeared on Henry’s radar as one of the Bronx Bloods infiltrating Kingston. “If you was from the neighborhood, you was affiliated with Sex Money Murder.”

From ghost town to K-town

Sex Money Murder found fertile ground for its burgeoning crack cocaine trade in Kingston in the 1990s. Even before the affiliation with the Bloods, Rollack and his henchmen had opened a pipeline between the Bronx and Kingston. Henry said that Rollack may have been introduced to the city by neighborhood friends from the Bronx who had connections with a family on Prospect Street. The city offered a new, relatively open market for the Soundview crew.

“I don’t know why Pistol Pete came to Kingston,” said Henry. “But I know why he stayed in Kingston.”

Henry recalls the height of the crack cocaine epidemic when open-air drug markets flourished on Midtown street corners. The new breed of dealers with roots in the Bronx (Ghost Town in Bloods lingo) increasingly controlled the trade.

“We started to see some common identifiers with these guys, colors they were wearing, words they were using,” said Henry. “It was getting to the point where talking to the same guys every day.”

Savelli said that the branching out of the gang from their home turf in Soundview to Kingston was part of a broader effort by SMM to extend its reach and to open what became, in effect, franchise operations in small cities around the Northeast.

“At that point they’re setting up places as new drug locations where they have somebody in place or somebody they can leave behind,” said Savelli. “They’ll stay in a hotel, go out to the clubs, start passing around crack cocaine, maybe order a henchman to beat somebody up to show they’re in charge and through that they get a following.”

In fact, according to Henry, Kingston was regarded as such a promising market that gang leaders ordered their local lieutenants to refrain from the . By the late 1990’s the Kingston set was flourishing under the leadership of Kevin “B-Mo” Aller, a high-ranking Blood with close ties to the Bronx leadership. Aller,  accompanied by a crew of “Bloodstains,” as young SMM soldiers are known, would appear in Kingston for a few weeks to check up on gang operations and then to vanish to another market.

“He was a street boss,” said Henry. “And as time went on, we were able to identify him as the spearhead of the problem locally.”

While Aller ran the streets, the gang established an even stronger presence in Kingston, using the Bloods brand to attract local youth to supplement core personnel from the Bronx.

“In ’96, ’97, ’98, 99 Sex Money Murder increases dramatically, because of their image,” said Henry. “Everybody wants to be Sex Money Murder.”

 Those who didn’t, the local drug dealers who resisted the SMM yoke, followed a path that Henry said has been repeated everywhere the East Coast Bloods set up shop. They formed a homegrown set which took their identity from West Coast Bloods archrivals, the Crips.

“The Bloods came in the 90s and basically occupied Midtown Kingston as their turf,” said Henry. “Then you have a lot of local neighborhood kids who are not down with that, and they start calling themselves Crips. Pretty soon they get organized and they get hooked up with the leadership.”

The end of the beginning

The mid-90’s represented a high water mark for Sex Money Murder. The Thanksgiving Day massacre shocked authorities and instigated a major Federal assault on the gang. In 1998 53 SMM members, including Rollack and Aller, were indicted on a host of federal charges. In Kingston, narcotics cops, including Henry were, after many unsuccessful efforts, able to catch Aller in a hand to hand drug deal. That bust, and Henry’s testimony about the gang’s activity in Kingston were enough to place Aller into the federal racketeering indictment against gang leaders as a multi-jurisdictional drug trafficker. Aller was eventually sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. The same indictment ended with Rollack sentenced to a term of life plus 105 years. Both men are locked up in at a federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado spending 23 and a half hours a day in their cells and with limited contact with the outside world.

While the feds demolished the gang’s leadership in the Bronx, a 1999 joint operation between the DEA and local police led to the arrest of 50 local Bloods gang members in what Henry described as the city’s first major gang case. The Pistol Pete Era was over.

“Pistol Pete’s dreams took them to the next level, and his violence took them down,” summed up Savelli. “That original crew accomplished something very rare that we’re probably not going to see again.”

Sex Money Murder never regained the pinnacle of its gruesome heyday in the Bronx, or in Kingston. But, like a parasitic infection that may subside, but never goes away, Sex Money Murder endures buoyed by the legend of Pistol Pete, a body of knowledge and rules passed on through generations of youth, and the leadership of hardened gang members who call shots from the state’s prison system. The gang’s violent traditions, including its code of silence, continue to cast deep shadows over Kingston’s crime scene.

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