Police Officer Helped Her Lover, a Gang Leader, Flee Country, U.S. Says

In June 2020, Officer Gina L. Mestre, a seven-year New York City police veteran, was assigned to the 52nd Precinct’s public safety unit in the Bronx. One of the unit’s top priorities was reducing gun violence, much of it linked to a gang called the Shooting Boys.

Around that time, federal prosecutors said, Ms. Mestre began an “intimate relationship” with the Shooting Boys’ leader, communicating with him through secret social media channels and phone numbers.

Before long, prosecutors said, she was feeding confidential grand jury information to gang members, including the identity of a witness they later assaulted. And she was helping the gang leader flee the United States after he committed a murder.

On Wednesday, Ms. Mestre, who left the Police Department in May 2022, was charged with participating in a racketeering conspiracy, obstructing a grand jury investigation and being an accessory to murder after the fact.

“Gina Mestre shamelessly exploited her position of public trust to assist gang members in her own N.Y.P.D. precinct that were terrorizing the Bronx by committing robberies, murders, drug trafficking and other acts of violence,” Damian Williams, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement announcing the charges.

Edward A. Caban, the city’s police commissioner, credited the “steadfast work” of the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau for Ms. Mestre’s arrest.

“There is no place for corruption of any kind in the N.Y.P.D.,” the commissioner said.

Ms. Mestre, 33, of Mohegan Lake, N.Y., pleaded not guilty before Judge Denise L. Cote of Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday. She was released after posting a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. Her lawyer, Matthew Kluger, declined to comment.

According to the indictment charging Ms. Mestre, the Shooting Boys had operated out of the University Heights section of the Bronx since at least 2017, selling drugs, using guns and engaging in violent turf disputes with rival gangs. Andrew Done, now 24, was the gang’s leader, prosecutors said.

After beginning her relationship with Mr. Done, known as Caballo, Ms. Mestre began to share information with him and other Shooting Boys members about a federal grand jury investigation into the gang, prosecutors said.

She warned Mr. Done and others that a federal indictment against the Shooting Boys was being prepared, and she passed on information about impending law enforcement operations in ways that allowed Mr. Done and his associates to conceal their criminal activity, prosecutors said.

Ms. Mestre also disclosed the identity of a witness who was providing information about the Shooting Boys to law enforcement authorities, prosecutors said. Armed with that knowledge, gang members assaulted the witness in a bid to prevent further cooperation, prosecutors said.

In November 2020, according to the indictment, Mr. Done fatally shot a rival gang member who was sitting in a car on Cromwell Avenue in the Bronx. Police detectives recovered security-camera video that showed Mr. Done committing the murder, prosecutors said.

Ms. Mestre was among several 52nd Precinct officers who identified Mr. Done as the gunman, prosecutors said. During the subsequent manhunt, Ms. Mestre sent him a copy of the video, prosecutors said. On the day of the murder and for weeks afterward, prosecutors said, she communicated with Mr. Done secretly about the authorities’ efforts to catch him.

In March 2022, 10 Shooting Boys members were charged with a variety of federal crimes, including racketeering conspiracy and murder. Mr. Done was charged with the murder caught on video. He was taken into custody in the Dominican Republic several months later.

That November, he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and admitted to his role in the Cromwell Avenue murder, court records show. In February, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

During Ms. Mestre’s nine years as an officer, 10 complaints were filed against her with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city’s police oversight agency. Four of the complaints were substantiated, three involving abuse of authority and one for discourtesy.

In May 2021 — nearly a year into what prosecutors say was her role in the racketeering conspiracy — the 52nd Precinct posted a message on X, previously known as Twitter, hailing Ms. Mestre and a second female officer as “women of today” who “mentor the officers of tomorrow.”

“With over 30 gun arrests combined,” the message said of Ms. Mestre and her fellow officer, “we salute their bravery and dedication day in and day out in keeping the community safe.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Ed Shanahan is a rewrite reporter and editor covering breaking news and general assignments on the Metro desk. More about Ed Shanahan

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