AT a third-floor window of a Lower Manhattan hospital, a team of federal agents huddled behind a battery of cameras. Below them, other agents strolled along the sidewalks, or cruised down Gold Street in unmarked cars. One group waited in a windowless minibus parked across the street. Not far away, another group, posing as an emergency crew, sat under a yellow canvas work tent over the open manhole in which they had set up a communications center. Precisely at 8:40 p.m., two undercover agents drove up Gold Street in a green 1970 Cadillac. They pulled to a stop in the No Parking zone in front of the hospital—and waited.
Minutes later the hidden agents—there were 40 in all—got the word over their short-wave radios: "Suspects are proceeding down Spruce Street, headed for Gold." In the third-floor observation post, one agent cracked to TIME Correspondent James Willwerth, "The Chinese are very punctual." So they were—right on time for the most important narcotics bust this summer.
At 9 p.m., two wary men walked up to the green Cadillac: Kenneth Kan-kit Huie, 60, self-styled "unofficial mayor of Chinatown," and Tim Lok, 35, known to federal agents as "the General" for his ramrod-stiff posture. The four men—two undercover narcotics agents, and the two "connections" whom they had been trying to nail for four months—wasted no time. The agents opened the trunk of the Cadillac and showed the Chinese the contents of an olive-drab attaché case inside: $200,000 in $50 and $100 bills. Then the General led one of the agents off on a meandering excursion that ended up in a Chinatown sportswear shop. There it was the agent's turn to inspect the wares: a cardboard box packed with 14 plastic bags containing 20 Ibs. of pure No. 4 white heroin from Southeast Asia. Street value: $10 million.
The agent and the General then went back toward Gold Street in a taxi, followed in a gray Dodge station wagon by a third Chinese, Guan Chow-tok, bringing the heroin. But Guan, owner of the sportswear shop, doubled back and dropped the heroin in a vacant lot, arriving emptyhanded. He seemed worried about police. The agent and Guan argued in the street in front of Beekman Hospital for several minutes, and finally the hesitant Chinese agreed to make the deal. The four men piled into the green Cadillac and followed the gray Dodge station wagon to a dark, deserted street, under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Following the General's directions, one undercover agent walked through waist-high grass into the vacant lot. Suddenly, he knelt down and said loudly: "This is the package; this is the package."
On that signal, the night fairly exploded with armed men and flashing lights. Two unmarked cars squealed to a stop at opposite ends of the street, blocking the escape routes. Agents waving pistols and shotguns sprinted out of the shadows from all directions. Huie, the General and a fourth Chinese accomplice surrendered immediately. Guan jumped into his gray Dodge—and found himself staring into the muzzle of a .45 automatic in the hands of an agent who was leaning through an open window.
Though last week's Chinatown bust was motion-picture perfect, to U.S. narcotics experts it was another bittersweet element in an increasingly frustrating, not to say disastrous