Former Bridgehampton High School basketball star Charles Maurice Manning, a.k.a “Mo,” was among five men arrested this week for allegedly operating a crack cocaine network throughout the East End. According to Southampton Town Police, town narcotics investigators and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents launched an investigation of the operation in January 2009.
Manning, 29, of Huntington Crossway in Bridgehampton and Lincoln Avenue in Riverhead faces charges in federal court of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of a cocaine base, a charge which according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Manning’s arrest on Tuesday marked an unfortunate end to what had seemed like a brilliant career. In a profile written by Ira Berkow in the March 11, 2004 edition of the New York Times, the 6-foot-2 Manning was referred to as “the scoring machine for Bridgehampton.” As a high school athlete, Manning earned the 1997 Suffolk County player of the year award. The piece goes on to chronicle Manning’s rough patch after exiting Bridgehampton, and ultimate athletic redemption after joining the county college team.
“But after leaving Bridgehampton High School without a diploma, he tried a prep school and left there without a diploma,” wrote Berkow. “He worked odd jobs. There was landscaping; there was sanitation.”
After bumping into famed Suffolk County Community College Coach Rich Wrase, Manning was soon on track to finish his high school education and earn an associates degree at the Suffolk Ammerman Campus. Manning helped the college team, the Clippers, win a National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division III championship and later earned the title of most valuable player in the tournament, wrote Berkow.
Several years later, Manning’s hopes of a professional basketball career appear extinguished. He was arrested along with five other men: Kareem S. Coffey, 29, of Noyac, who also faces charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of a cocaine base, Terrence K. Johnson, a.k.a. “Treva Pettaway,” 34 of Southampton and Flanders, Allen Hopson, a.k.a. “Relly,” 32 of Southampton, and Raymond E. Gilliam a.k.a “Ray,” 27, of Huntington Crossway, Bridgehampton.
Paul Jeffers, Jr., Bridgehampton community leader and President of the Bridgehampton Childcare and Recreation Center, said he was completely surprised by the arrests.
“Drug trafficking didn’t seem to be very large at this point,” remarked Jeffers. “I thought the last big raid had slowed the drug trafficking almost to a halt.” According to town police, the last large scale drug raid in the Bridgehampton area occurred in 2003 with the help of the US Attorney’s Office, who also helped on this case. Since 2001, over 25 local drug dealers have been charged on state and federal charges as the result of investigations between the town and federal narcotics investigators, added the town police.
Although Jeffers admitted he didn’t know Manning personally, he said his organization and the community are motivated to keep men like these off the attractive and lucrative path of drug dealing. With limited economic opportunities though, Jeffers pointed out that the town, county and state must work to create jobs with livable salaries and conduct valuable training for Bridgehampton youths.
Town police said the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests are expected.