Police: $16 million heroin ring busted in Pa.

April 8, 2011 3:18:28 PM PDT
Pennsylvania authorities announced a takedown Friday of what they described as a major heroin distribution ring that allegedly did business from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Acting state Attorney General Bill Ryan described an operation that worked like a business.

"They were dedicated, they were experienced and they were smooth," he said.

Twelve men were charged Friday. Nine were arrested early that morning or had already been in custody on lesser charges. Three more remained at large.

Authorities said the group had about $16 million a year in sales in each of the last two years, selling drugs - largely heroin, but also some cocaine - mostly to lower-level dealers.

They said that the customers would call one cell phone number, which might be answered by various members of the alleged brain trust, within a half-hour before they wanted to pick up drugs.

One of suspects, Nestor Vega, would ask two quick questions: "What you driving? What you need?" and get enough information to dispatch a runner to meet the customer in the customer's car within minutes at a designated spot, according to authorities.

Investigators said the network usually stamped bags of heroin with "Black Widow," a brand name. But when there were complaints about the quality of Black Widow, the name was changed to "Moon Dust," Ryan said.

He said drugs supplied by the network were linked to at least two overdoes, including one that was fatal. That was in Bristol Township on Jan. 7, killing a 24-year-old drug user.

The investigation is continuing and authorities are trying to determine who supplied the drugs to the network, Ryan said.

Friday, the nine suspects who had been arrested were moved from a South Philadelphia outpost of the state Attorney General's Office to Bucks County, where they were to be tried. Authorities said two of the suspects were major street-level dealers there.

As one of them, Saviel "Javier" Mieses-Guzman was loaded onto a van with two other suspects, he saw reporters and cameras. "Bye-bye," he said. "Bye-bye."

Authorities said he was the fourth-ranking member of the operation. They said the four top members were two sets of brothers, all citizens of the Dominican Republic who were in the country illegally.

Mieses-Guzman's brother, Warner, was the alleged ringleader. Authorities could not immediately identify the lawyers representing the suspects.