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Contraband
04/08/2011

ICE assists in dismantling heroin distribution network in Pennsylvania

Operation Black Widow
Operation Black Widow

PHILADELPHIA - Agents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, assisted by local police from Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pa., along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), have filed criminal charges against twelve suspects accused of operating a wide-reaching drug network based in southeastern Pennsylvania responsible for the distribution and sale of more than $16 million worth of heroin and cocaine per year.

Acting Attorney General Bill Ryan said the ongoing investigation, known as "Operation Black Widow," focused on the distribution and sale of bulk quantities of heroin and cocaine. Drug buyers allegedly traveled to the Philadelphia area from throughout the region and across the state, in order to purchase drugs - often for resale in their local communities - including Pennsylvania communities like Norristown, King of Prussia, Fairless Hills and West Chester in suburban counties, or as far away as Mechanicsburg and Shermansdale in central Pennsylvania.

"Like the spider whose name they borrowed, these dealers were pushing a product that carried a potentially deadly sting, with 'Black Widow' heroin suspected in connection with a number of overdoses," said Ryan. "They also created a complicated web of relationships between suppliers, dealers and runners to maximize profits while hiding the true size and scope of their network."

Ryan said the investigation began in November 2010, based on information about heroin sales in the Philadelphia area that were being arranged through a dedicated cell phone number. Evidence and testimony about undercover drug purchases, surveillance of drug sales and wire taps that monitored thousands of phone conversations was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges that were filed today.

According to the grand jury, the primary supplier for this drug distribution network was Warner Mieses-Guzman, also known as "Picua" or "Picu," a citizen of the Dominican Republic illegally residing in the United States.

Ryan said that "Picua" allegedly provided substantial quantities of drugs to two other Dominicans also illegally in this country: Fausto Ezequiel Valdez-Cordero, also known as "Keka," "Primo" or "Pepe," along with his brother, Fausto Gabriel Valdez-Cordero, often known simply as "Pepe's brother."

A fourth Dominican, Saviel Mieses-Guzman - the brother of "Picua" - allegedly served as a drug runner for the Valdez-Cordero brothers, delivering heroin and cocaine to various dealers in the network. Saviel Mieses-Guzman, who also went by the name Rodolfo Diaz or "Javier," is also illegally residing in the United States.

The grand jury found that the Valdez-Cordero brothers were distributing heroin to a pair of dealers operating in Bucks County, who were selling primarily to customers from southeastern Pennsylvania, along with a group of three Philadelphia men selling to customers who often traveled great distances to obtain large quantities of drugs.

Ryan said that sales to customers from outside Philadelphia were allegedly handled by a group controlled by Pedro "JR" Vega, along with his brothers, Noel "Chino" and Nestor Vega.

Three other men reportedly served as "runners" for the Vega brothers, delivering drugs to customers and collecting payments. These suspected runners include Jose Sanchez, also known as "Joey;" Jose Matos, also known as "Ponytail Boy;" and Amador Alvarado-Cintron, also known as "Chiki."

According to the grand jury, drug sales in and around Bucks County were handled by Darnell Ballard and Anthony Gary, also known as "Mooc" or "Mookum."

Ryan said that all of these interrelated drug operations allegedly functioned in a similar way, using dedicated cell phone numbers to quickly process drug orders from customers across the state. Callers who were attempting to order drugs were often greeted with a simple question: "what'chu drivin', what'chu need?"

"This was a systematic and speedy effort to move large quantities of drugs with few spoken words and little wasted time," Ryan said. "Once an order for heroin or cocaine was placed, runners were quickly dispatched to assigned meeting locations where drugs would be traded for cash - often within a few minutes of the initial call."

According to the grand jury, the heroin was sold under the street names of "Black Widow," "The Best" and "Moon Dust."

Ryan noted that heroin labeled as "Black Widow" was located at the scenes of two recent overdoses in Bristol Township, Bucks County, including a January 7th fatal overdose involving a 24-year old along with another overdose reported on December 31st.

"Over the course of the investigation agents identified several of the dedicated cell phone numbers used by the Vegas, 'Pepe,' 'Picua' and others," Ryan said. "They intercepted and monitored thousands of conversations involving drug orders, discussions about drug supplies and questions about the quality of various products."

As part of the investigation, agents executed a series of 24 search warrants in Philadelphia on February 15th, targeting 16 homes and eight vehicles. As the result of those searches they seized nearly a kilo of heroin and more than $62,000 in cash, along with stamps to label the drugs, scales and other drug packaging materials. Additional searches resulted in the seizure of an AK-47 assault rifle and several fully loaded ammunition clips; ten vehicles, including two with hidden drug compartments; and more than $88,000 in suspected drug proceeds seized from a bank account in Pedro Vega's name.

Ryan said agents estimate that the Dominican suspects were distributing approximately $35,000 worth of heroin per day, while the Vega brothers were allegedly generating daily sales of over $11,000. Combined, the organization allegedly distributed more than 76 kilos of heroin per year, with an estimated street value of more than $16.8 million.

Ryan noted that this is an ongoing investigation, with numerous additional arrests expected in the future.

The defendants will be prosecuted in Bucks County by Deputy Attorney General Robert D. Rosner of the Attorney General's Drug Strike Force Section.

Ryan thanked the Philadelphia Police Department, ICE HSI, the Bristol Township (Bucks County) Police Department and the Philadelphia and Bucks County District Attorney's Offices for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

Below is a list of the defendants and the charges filed against them:

Warner Mieses-Guzman, 32, 5339 Tabor Ave, Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.25 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $30,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

  • Fausto Ezequiel Valdez-Cordero, 30, 2135 Bleigh St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; three counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, all felonies which are each punishable by up to 30 years in prison along with a total fine of up to $1.5 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $75,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Fausto Gabriel Valdez-Cordero, 31, 3159 N. 9th St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.25 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $75,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Saviel Mieses-Guzman, 28, 3417 N. Arbor St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; four counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $75,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Pedro Vega, 39, 3415 Hartel St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; six counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.5 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, felonies which are each punishable by up to ten years in prison and total fines of up to $500,000; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $75,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Noel Vega, 35, 3744 N. Darien St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; six counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.5 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, felonies which are each punishable by up to ten years in prison and total fines of up to $500,000; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $30,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Nestor Vega, 31, 4235 Fairhill St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; six counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, all felonies which are each punishable by up to 30 years in prison along with total fines of up to $3 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, all felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines totaling up to $1 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $75,000; and one count of conspiracy to possess drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Jose Sanchez, 28, 3908 N. Franklin St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; 17 counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $4.25 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, all felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $1 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; nine counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $135,000; one count of firearms not to be carried without a license, a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
  • Jose Matos, 34, 4722 N. Tampa St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; five counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies which are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.25 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; one count of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; and three counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $45,000.
  • Amadol Alvarado-Cintron, 54, 2441 N. Reese St., Philadelphia, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; one count of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of delivery or possession with intent to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; one count of conspiracy to deliver cocaine, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine; and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, both third degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines up to $30,000.
  • Anthony Gary, 28, 126 Green Lynne Drive, Levittown, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; three counts of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, felonies each punishable by up to 30 years in prison and total fines of up to $1.5 million; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and ten counts of criminal use of a communication facility, third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and total fines of up to $150,000.
  • Darnell Ballard, 25, 126 Green Lynne Drive, Levittown, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, first-degree felonies each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and total fines of up to $50,000; one count of delivery or possession with intent to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of conspiracy to deliver heroin, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.