12 indicted in major gun, drug trafficking operation after bust in Philadelphia's Kensington section

Officials said they seized over 50,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl.

Thursday, June 13, 2024
12 indicted in Kensington drug trafficking operation bust
12 indicted in major gun, drug trafficking operation after bust in Philadelphia's Kensington section

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A dozen people have been indicted by a grand jury in connection to a violent drug trafficking organization that has been operating out of Philadelphia's Kensington section for the last year and a half.

Ten of those people indicted have been arrested by law enforcement in Philadelphia. One person is waiting to be transferred from another state and one person remains a fugitive.

Police say the 12 alleged members of the Avila drug trafficking organization were operating in Fairhill and Hunting Park. They were netted by local and federal authorities last Thursday as part of "Operation Black Diamond" and have since been indicted on narcotics and gun charges.

Wilfredo Avila, 30, of Philadelphia, is facing the bulk of the serious charges and is accused of being the leader of the operation.

RELATED: Efforts continue to clean up Philly's drug-riddled Kensington section

Police say Avila sold significant quantities of packaged fentanyl, fentanyl pills, and cocaine in and around the Fairhill-Kensington area. He is also accused of routinely offering and selling firearms of all kinds to drug-dealing customers, and used intimidation to protect their Philadelphia turf.

The others facing charges include 48-year-old Chanel Diaz Oscar, 59-year-old Zaida Diaz, 44-year-old Marcelino Minaya Lebron, 26-year-old Noel Arce, 37-year-old Abdul Perez, 28-year-old Ahmed Perez, 55-year-old Juan Acosta, 35-year-old Angel Colon, 33-year-old Alexander Roman Delgado, 33-year-old Angel Velez and 30-year-old Jose Rodriguez. They are all said to be from Philadelphia.

Ahmed Perez
Ahmed Perez

Ahmed Perez remains at large, according to officials.

"The indictments announced today mark a significant step forward in our ongoing battle against the epidemic of drug sales, use, and violence that has plagued our communities, especially in Kensington," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel.

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Authorities say their investigation began in February of 2023, but it was last week when law enforcement hit multiple properties around Kensington.

The group sold drugs in the 2900 block of Lawrence Street in Fairhill and operated multiple stash houses, including one on the 3300 block of North American Street in Hunting Park.

"Our law enforcement teams went to 14 locations, executed multiple warrants and arrested over 12 suspects," said Eric Degree, Special Agent in Charge with ATF Philadelphia.

The Safer Communities Act passed in 2022 also played a role in this, especially in the form of grants that allowed extra resources.

"A total of 57 firearms, including multiple personally-made firearms -- also known as PMFs -- 556 and 223 caliber rifles, pistols with extended magazines, stolen firearms and thousands of rounds of ammo, as well as a machine gun-conversion device -- also known as a switch," Degree said.

"The investigation resulted in the purchase or seizure of more than two kilograms of cocaine and 19,000 packets of fentanyl, which amounts to over 50,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl," added Jacqueline Romero, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Under the new Cherelle Parker administration, the city of Philadelphia recently cleared an encampment in Kensington and has dedicated an assignment of at least 75 new police recruits to foot patrols in the area, with the goal to eradicate widespread drug sales.

"How do we sustain those areas? That's going to be the key into helping us move forward and transition that neighborhood completely," said First Deputy Commissioner John Stanford, with the Philadelphia Police Department.

"I also hope it sends a message to all the other drug and gun traffickers out there. That message is... you're next," said U.S. Attorney Romero.

RELATED: Cleanup of encampment on Kensington Avenue completed, but what's next?

Authorities could not say if any of the defendants are also facing state charges on the drug arrests or homicide arrests, but they did add that they are running ballistics on all of the weapons confiscated.

If convicted, the defendants face maximum possible sentences ranging from five years to lifetime imprisonment.