A one-time drug lord told a Manhattan federal court jury Tuesday that he had a rogue NYPD officer serving as his personal protection against rivals and even law enforcement.
Gabriel Reyes, who is cooperating with authorities, testified that his high school pal Merlin Alston, 34, regularly came with him on drug runs often bringing his NYPD service gun.
“He told me he had my back. Just in case of anything, Merlin would do what he had to do. That was the understanding. He would protect me,” said Reyes, who was busted on drug dealing and weapons possession charges.
Reyes also told jurors he had been pulled over 30 to 40 times from 2009 to 2013 many times while carrying drugs and weapons in his car and was frequently cut loose because of help from Alston who had given him Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association cards to present to police.
On one occasion Reyes said he called Alston then a cop in the Bronx’s 46th Precinct who is now on trial for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and firearms possession after getting pulled over on his way to deliver drugs.
Alston arrived within minutes to speak with the cop. Reyes said the cop let him go and he proceeded to finish the drug deal.
“After [the cop] left. I made the sale,” he told jurors.
Earlier, Assistant US Attorney Jared Lenow told jurors in his opening statement, “This is a case about a police officer who was a drug dealer’s right-hand man.”
Lenow said Alston tipped off Reyes and other drug dealers to police raids and activities. “The defendant was serving as those drugs dealers’ spy,” he said.
“Betrayal, lies and self-preservation those three things, that’s what this case is going to boil down to,” Alston’s lawyer, Jeffrey Greco said during his opening.
Greco said three of the drug dealers set to testify, including Reyes, “are there for one reason and one reason alone, to benefit their case.”
Alston faces up to life in prison if convicted.