WEST CHESTER - A top leader of what authorities called a "structured and wide-spread drug organization" was taken down as a part of 25 arrests of upper-echelon players to street level dealers.
The joint, multijurisdictional drug investigation that crossed at least four surrounding state borders eliminates an estimated 60 percent of cocaine trafficking in the borough and its surrounding areas, police said.
"We dismantled a major drug organization in and around Chester County," said State Police Lt. Brian Naylor, commander of the Troop J criminal investigation unit. "We're not all the way done yet, but we've made a major dent in and around the West Chester area."
Oscar Lugo, 53, of Wilmington, Del., whom police claim was one of two leaders of the organization, was met by state police from Pennsylvania and Delaware and U.S. Marshals when he attempted to re-enter the country using false identification at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on March 22.
Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll said that Lugo "disappeared" within the past year after he was convicted of trafficking numerous kilograms of cocaine in Delaware. He said Lugo left the country while awaiting a sentencing of about 45 years in jail.
Officials have their eyes on 15 additional players, including one suspect they rank at the top with Lugo.
However, even with that suspect still at large, Naylor said the organization can no longer operate.
During the Wednesday afternoon announcement, word came through to police that one more of those arrests was made.
Officials estimated the organization was trafficking five to six kilograms of cocaine in the West Chester area on a monthly basis.
Each kilogram is estimated to contain about 5,000 "street level" dosages, which police said the group was able to sell in under a week.
"That has a huge impact on the neighborhoods, a huge impact on the community and certainly on related crime," said West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn.
The original focus of the investigation was centered in and around the area of the 300 block of West Washington Street.
"During the course of the investigation, it became apparent to police that the activity was a well-defined, wipe-spread and structured enterprise with ties, participants and illegal activity in various jurisdictions in Chester County, as well as outside the county and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Bohn said.
Over the course of the year-and-a-half investigation, search warrants were served at various locations in the county and the state of Delaware. Those locations included residences, businesses and storage facilities.
Items seized and in the process of forfeiture included: One kilogram of cocaine with an estimated street value of between $100,000 and $150,000; 291 ecstasy pills with an estimated street value of between $8,000 and $9,000; marijuana and PCP-laced marijuana; and more than $60,000 in cash.
In addition, four vehicles: a Ford Expedition, Honda Accord, Acura Legend and Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle; a 65-inch projection television; and numerous other household goods.
There is no time frame set as to when the remaining members of the organization will be arrested. Police declined to release their identities or whereabouts but said they are confident that those arrests will come in a matter of time.
"They have to come up sometime," Naylor said.
When all of the arrests are made, police said it will become obvious as to how the organization is connected.
Carroll said everyone named in the Wednesday announcement will have additional charges filed against them, including possible federal charges. The federal government is involved in the current investigation, No federal charges have been filed to date.
"There's part of the investigation that can't be disclosed at this point," Carroll said.
Officials praised the patience of the local police in times when residents were blasting their efforts to take care of the drug problems on the street.
Bohn said police were sensitive to the citizens complaints but did not want to compromise the outcome of the larger investigation.
"We can't keep arresting the street dealers," said Kennett Square Police Chief Albert McCarthy. "We have to go to the source of the drugs and where theyíre coming into the community."
Kennett Square's Narcotics Unit has worked in the past with state police on numerous narcotics arrests. "We know we wonít eradicate them, but we think we can control them," he said.
The investigation reached several agencies including state police from Pennsylvania and Delaware, local police from West Chester, Kennett Square and New Castle County, Del. and the Chester County District Attorneyís Office. Police estimates a total of a $500,000 worth of manpower has been put into the investigation.
Carroll said Pennsylvania State Police were the only agency "capable of pulling off" an investigation as extensive as this.
A drug sweep in August netted the arrests of 16 individuals linked to this organization.
Of the arrests announced Wednesday was Felix Reyes, 28, of the Summit House Condominiums, West Chester, who was ranked directly below Lugo and his associate in the organization. He is in Chester County Prison in lieu of $150,000 total bail.
Under Reyes in the chain of command were Antonio Aviles, 25, of the 600 block of East Union Street, West Chester, and Jose Diaz-Perez, 23, of Carlyn Court, Downingtown. Both were arrested and are incarcerated in Chester County Prison. Total bail was set at $300,000 for Aviles and $375,000 for Diaz-Perez.
Of six suspects working under those two men, five arrests were made. Those suspects were: William Molina, 51, of the 300 block of South Adams Street, West Chester, who is incarcerated in Delaware County Prison; Asdrubal "Junebug" Cruz, 26, of the 700 block of Marshall Street, West Chester, who is incarcerated in state prison; Norman Marchant, 32, of South Matlack Street, who is in jail in lieu of a total of $450,000 bail; Dowayne Molina and Monta Coleman, 26, of the 300 block of West Chestnut Street.
Coleman was one of the victims of a double shooting that occurred in the borough on Sept. 27.
Anthony Wesley, 32, of the 300 block of South Matlack Street, West Chester, and Luis Quintana, 18, Hollow Run Lane, West Whiteland, were also arrested and remanded to prison in lieu of $150,000 and $225,000 total bail, respectively.
One unknown suspect is still operating who worked under Marchant, police said.
Raymond Manzanet, 38, of North New Street, was also arrested. He is currently incarcerated at Camp Hill Correctional Center. He was thought to work off of the same line as Molina, Molina, Coleman, Cruz and Marchant, police said. Jesus Mejias was also arrested working on that line with Manzanet.
Street level distributors included in the organization were Tamire Ricks, Wilfred Ortiz, Alex Terbe, Christopher Cauley, Carlos Rolan, Mike Washington, Stephen Poole, Kim Thompson, Tonya Thompson, Candy Bell, Troy King and William Jacobs and six more suspects who have not yet been arrested.
"The drugs are off the streets," said West Chester Mayor Richard Yoder. "They will no longer be there, brought by these individuals to poison our residents."