Call it a case of crime imitating art imitating crime.
That's what the police say happened with a drug ring in Queens whose members honed their trade and learned to evade arrest by watching the HBO series "The Wire," a gritty, realistic police procedural about a crew of drug dealers in Baltimore and the police and prosecutors who use wiretaps to try and take them off the street.
The accused leaders of the Queens gang, whose arrests were announced yesterday by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and District Attorney Richard A. Brown of Queens, mimicked the practice of characters in "The Wire," using disposable cellphones to make it more difficult for the police to eavesdrop on them.
Each time the suspects switched phones, investigators and prosecutors had to go back to court and seek approval for a new wiretap from a State Supreme Court justice, a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, said Sgt. Felipe Rodriguez, a supervisor on the case.
"Believe it or not, these guys copy 'The Wire,' " said the sergeant, who is assigned to the Organized Crime Investigation Division. "They were constantly dumping their phones. It made our job so much harder."
Sergeant Rodriguez said several members of the gang were big fans of the HBO show and talked about it constantly. He said that the investigators could catch up on the latest developments in the show, if they hadn't seen it, when members of the gang talked about it the next day. "If we missed anything, we got it from them Monday morning," he said.
The investigation, which grew out of another drug case in southeast Queens in 2002, led to the seizure of 43 kilos of cocaine, 18 handguns and nearly a million dollars in cash, officials said.
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