Vicious Queens-based robbery crew has torture victims in tears - from onions
BY John Marzulli

Friday, March 11th 2011, 4:00 AM

The feds have charged a member of a Queens-based robbery crew with cooking up a torture technique that had its victims in tears - from onions.

Erick Mejia is suspected in numerous heists of drug traffickers along the East Coast in which his crew posed as cops and sometimes stuffed a victim's head inside a bag of the pungent veggie.

Many of the attacks involved violence, but the most bizarre may be a February 2008 job they pulled near Raleigh, N.C., in 2008, according to an arrest warrant unsealed this week in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Mejia and other robbery crew members conducted a police-style car stop of a drug supplier, brandishing fake badges and using a vehicle outfitted with police lights.

They kidnapped the man and drove to a trailer home where they tied him up, along with a woman and child.

"The crew placed a bag of onions over the head of one of the male victims to induce him to reveal the location of narcotics," said NYPD Detective Therone Eugene of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Redrum Task Force.

"The bag filled with cut-up onions caused the victim to experience a form of asphyxiation," Eugene noted.

The crew returned to Queens with a $35,000 haul, according to the court papers.

A second onion-torture heist during a home invasion in Georgia yielded 77 pounds of cocaine and $100,000 in cash.

A spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Mejia, who was being held in a Gwinnett County, Ga., jail on a murder charge, will be transported to New York for arraignment in the near future.

The crew was headed by 300-pound thug Franklin De Vargas and was responsible for more than 100 robberies in the city, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

They often tortured their victims with more traditional methods like beatings, burning with a hot iron, submerging a victim's head in water and squeezing their testicles with pliers.

A previous indictment charged NYPD Officer Jorge Arbaje-Diaz with betraying his badge for the gang.

Arbaje-Diaz pleaded guilty to robbing heroin from a dealer and participating in one robbery while on duty and in full uniform. He is awaiting sentencing before Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis. ... nions.html