July 12, 2020 – The NCAA and DEA contacted the Syracuse University basketball program back in the early 1990s because of players attending social events hosted by local drug kingpin Tyrone (Handsome Ty) Hines and his Boogie Down Boys crew, according to federal records. Hines often commandeered The Gardenia nightclub near campus on the weekends transforming it into his own personal playground and bringing in hip-hop acts like L.L. Cool J, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Heavy D and Eric B & Rakim to perform to wall-to-wall crowds. Syracuse hoopsters and other university athletes, would get VIP treatment at the concerts, per documents related to Operation Boogie Down.
The 54-year old Hines did more than two and a half decades behind bars on a narcotics conspiracy conviction. He was originally sentenced to life in prison in 1995, but President Trump’s First Step Act – offering sentencing relief to non-violent offenders – got him out after 26 years last November. Hines did an interview with Syracuse.com last week for a feature story on his rise, fall and redemption.
Prosecutors made note of the Boogie Down Boys’ reputation for non-violence in a memo to U.S. District Judge Frederick Sullivan in Hines’ case requesting that he not be hit with a sentence of natural life. The plea for mercy fell on deaf ears.
While locked up, Hines used his time productively, penning four books, organizing social-activism endeavors from his cell and helping other inmates with their cases and causes. Today, Hines humbly works maintenance at a hotel.
Handsome Ty was suave and stealth in his heyday as a drug boss, building his crack cocaine empire on Syracuse’s South Side and reigning supreme on the streets of upstate New York for the first half of the 1990s. His business-model, utilizing shell companies, bicycle-driving teenage delivery boys and complex beeper codes was tough to crack for the feds. The DEA eventually flipped a confidant of Handsome Ty’s and nailed Hines in a sting.
Hines was arrested in April 1994. Just weeks earlier, he had flown out to Los Angeles, California to watch the Syracuse men’s basketball team play in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange (23-7) lost to No. 1 seed Missouri 98-88 in overtime in the Sweet 16 that season. Adrian Autry, John Wallace and Lawrence Moten piloted that formidable ‘Cuse club.
The straight-talking, bespectacled Jim Boeheim has coached the Orange since 1976, leading the program to five Final Fours, three a NCAA National Championship Games and the 2003 National Title. He is college basketball’s longest-tenured coach in the Division I ranks, a virtual institution in his own right in the pantheon of east coast hoop icons.
Boeheim’s biggest coaching rival during the era in which Hines ruled the Syracuse dope game, Georgetown’s Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, encountered a similar issue around the same time with his Hoyas club. DEA agents visited Thompson in the late 1980s and told him they had spotted his players hanging around Washington D.C. drug lord Rayful Edmond at the Chapter III nightclub, resulting in the imposingly-built Thompson calling Edmond to a meeting in February of that year and ordering him to steer clear of the players in his program.
Future NBA Hall of Fame center and all-time Hoya great Alonzo Mourning was called to testify at Edmond’s 1989 trial to discuss his dealings with the kingpin. Mourning met Edmond in 1988 through his Georgetown teammate and fellow first-round NBA Draft pick John Turner, a D.C. native familiar with members of the Edmond crew since childhood.
Per DEA documents, Tyrone Hines maintained a drug-supply plug in Manhattan. His Boogie Down Boys lieutenants would drive the four hours from Syracuse to New York City every week for a “re-up” that they would then transport back upstate in boxes of cereal on buses and trains.