Only 21, Hilton "Max" Vega was already a convicted felon. His girlfriend had recently taken part in an illegal wedding. One put together by Jorge Rodriguez (50's) a career criminal whose rap sheet was far longer than Vega's. Rodriguez, known to always carry a gun, was once even arrested for shooting at a uniformed police officer. How he was not convicted is unknown but what is known is that by the early 90's, with help from his wife Hermelinda Rodriguez (also a convicted felon) Jorge was recruiting Puerto Ricans to marry Dominicans and other Latin American foreigners. This so that these foreigners could gain citizenship into the United States.
None of this was hidden as flyers were placed throughout the Morris Heights section of the Bronx advertising a wedding service which saw illegals often pay up to $15,000 a pop for the scam. Some of that money was used to fly to places like Peru where these weddings faced less legal scrutiny and seemed more legit. Most of the cash was pocketed by Jorge and Hermelinda. Only a small percentage, if any, was ever given to the recruited Puerto Ricans.
By most accounts, Vega's girlfriend (who was pregnant at the time but later had a miscarriage) was only promised $200 for her part. One report states that she had been promised $2,200. Either way, the Rodriguez' did not pay her a single dime. On the night of January 11th 1995, Hilton Vega came to the Rodriguez home looking for her cut. Hermelinda answered the door, said she only had $50, and gave it to him. Hilton threatened that he'd be back the next night for the rest.
That following night Hermelinda and Jorge called the police and claimed that they had been victims of a push-in robbery. Two detectives, Patrick J. Brosnan and James Crowe, both of the infamous 46th precinct, responded. Somewhat surprisingly, the two veterans had very different histories, weren't partners, and rarely worked together.
Brosnan was known as a hero cop. He was involved in three daring shootouts, made close to 1,000 arrests in his storied career and at the age of 31, in 1990, was awarded "Police Officer of the Year" by then-Governor, Mario Cuomo. That same year he crossed eight state lines in tracking down two triple murderers. Murderers who had each put a $10,000 bounty on Brosnan's head. His work was featured on the TV show America's Most Wanted on several occasions. His blond hair/blue eyed movie star looks, as well as his street tough background (Brosnan grew up in the South Bronx) made him the poster boy for Giuliani's police force. In fact, he spent all of 1993 working for Giuliani (during Rudy's mayoral run) and did so for free. Brosnan took a sabbatical from the NYPD to be Giuliani's personal body guard.
Far less was known about James Crowe. In all of his years, he had never once fired a bullet as a cop. He was never honored by Governor Mario Cuomo, nor condemned by Judge Milton Mollen. By some accounts he too did some volunteer security work for Giuliani, but even that hasn't been fully verified. Either way it was Crowe and not Brosnan's regular partner, Edward Murphy, who joined the hero cop in answering the call made by Jorge and Hermelinda Rodriguez on the night of Janauary 12th, 1995.
Brosnan and Crowe, both in plain clothes, arrived to 1740 Grand at 8:30 PM. The two were talked into staying as Jorge and Hermelinda convinced them that a College Point Massacre type of crime was in the making. A week earlier Columbian drug dealers killed six, including three teenaged girls, during a push-in robbery in College Point, Queens. A seventh, also a teenaged girl, was left to die but miraculously survived despite being beaten, shot, and having her throat slit.
After staking out the home for several hours, Brosnan and Crowe were prepared to leave when Hilton Vega came knocking on the door shortly after 11:00 PM. Hilton was joined by his cousin Antonio Rosario, 18, and Rosario's friend, Freddy Bonilla, also 18. Unlike Vega, both Rosario and Bonilla had fairly clean records. As a juvenile, Rosario had been arrested once for assaulting a Chinese immigrant, but he was never charged. Bonilla was with Rosario at the time but he was never arrested and had no other run-ins with the law. The two met while in Catholic school. Still, despite being considered "good" kids, they willingly followed Vega to the Rodriguez home. All three came in carrying semi automatic weapons.