Pennsylvania authorities announced they've cracked a $3.5 million drug ring that allegedly channeled pounds of methamphetamine from Mexico to street-level dealers across the state, including the Lehigh Valley.
State police working with the state Attorney General's Office and local police brought charges against 27 people in a nearly four-year joint investigation called "Operation Blowout" that ranged from Philadelphia to Reading and into Bucks, Berks, Tioga and Lycoming counties.
In raids across the state Tuesday, officers arrested 25 of those charged to face trial in Bucks County Court. The charges include participation in a corrupt organization, delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy and related offenses.
Attorney General Linda Kelly and state police Commissioner Frank Noonan on Wednesday stressed that the investigation succeeded in taking large-scale dealers and large quantizes of dangerous meth off the streets, cutting off supplies to street-level dealers.
"They're selling to other dealers who are selling on the streets everywhere, including the Lehigh Valley and beyond," said attorney general's spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen.
Kelly, Noonan and Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler described the investigation in a news conference Wednesday in Philadelphia while displaying firearms, cash, drugs and paraphernalia seized during the investigation.
Agents, state troopers and Bucks County detectives beginning in January 2009 used surveillance, court-ordered wiretaps and more than 30 undercover drug buys to identify suppliers and distributors in the ring. The investigation centered on Robert H. Snyder, 53, of Pottstown, and Wesley B. White, 53, of Roaring Branch, Tioga County.
According to a grand jury presentment detailing evidence in the case, Snyder received bulk shipments of meth from sources in Mexico. The meth was allegedly moved across the U.S. border from Mexico to McAllen, Texas, and delivered to a source in Reading identified as 38-year-old Raul Cosme.
Snyder allegedly supplied the meth to White and another man, Judson Route, 52, also of Roaring Branch. The men allegedly sold the drugs through a network of distributors in Berks and Tioga counties.
Investigators were able to follow White's supply chain to a second source of meth in lower Bucks County. Authorities say John S. Hodgeson, 65, of Levittown, allegedly worked with at least six other individuals to sell meth for cash or sexual favors.
Investigators traced Hodgeson's supply of meth to a Philadelphia man named Francis Gulich, 62, who allegedly supplied quantities of meth in larger than 1 pound to Hodgeson. Gulich also allegedly worked with six others to sell meth in Philadelphia and Bucks County.
As the investigation progressed, investigators identified a second Philadelphia man, 72-year-old Sim Bradley, as Gulich and Hodgeson's alleged supplier. Bradley also allegedly supplied meth to two Bucks County men, Grady Dennis, 46 of Willow Grove and Lee Wasser, 47, of Perkasie.
In the course of the investigation, agents and troopers seized 4 pounds of meth, a partially disassembled meth lab, nearly 100 firearms, $110,000 in cash and 16 vehicles, in addition to drug packaging materials and records of drug sales and debts.
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