Stunned officials find 130 gallons of the dangerous drug in Los Angeles and Culver City — enough for 10 million doses.
About $100 million worth of PCP was seized this week in Los Angeles and Culver City in what authorities described as a major bust of a national drug-trafficking organization.
Officials said they found huge amounts of PCP — totaling roughly 10 million individual doses, which in the Los Angeles area sell for between $10 and $20 each — at two local storage facilities and several other locations. Authorities also recovered nearly $400,000 in cash.
Authorities believe the trafficking organization included at least 10 individuals locally and that it was distributing to Texas, New York and Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities.
"They were shipping and moving and dealing a huge amount of product," said Lt. Scott Fairfield of the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, known as L.A. IMPACT. "It's the largest PCP seizure I've ever heard of."
Two suspects, Darryl Dwayne Burton and Lagina Bell Huckaby, were arrested Wednesday at a UPS store in Culver City where they were allegedly trying to ship narcotics, Fairfield said. L.A. IMPACT investigators had been trailing the suspects for about a month in response to a tip from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Search warrants were subsequently issued for several locations where a drug ring was believed to be operating, Fairfield said. In the sweep, authorities discovered approximately 130 gallons of phencyclidine, the chemical name for PCP, along with $389,000 in cash, two assault weapons and enough chemicals to produce 500 additional gallons of the narcotic.
Fairfield said Burton is believed to be associated with the Bounty Hunter Bloods, a street gang active in Los Angeles. He described Burton as a "major player" in the trafficking organization, but said investigators are still trying to determine what relationship, if any, existed between the drug operation and the gang.
The search warrants covered two residences in South Los Angeles as well as two large storage facilities, Fairfield said. Authorities found cash and an active drug lab at the homes, and most of the PCP and "precursor ingredients" were found at the storage facilities, he added.
Burton and Huckaby both pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges on Friday. They are being held in lieu of $3 million and $2 million bail, respectively.
Burton, 55, has two convictions for drug offenses, including one for possession of PCP, according to the criminal complaint filed against him. No prior convictions were listed for Huckaby, who is 31.
Experts said the quantity of drugs seized indicates a potentially sizable network involved in the manufacturing and distribution of the PCP.
"You know for sure it's not somebody cooking down in his basement," said John Sullivan, a former chief of detectives for the Las Vegas Police Department. "It must be on a grand scale."
Fairfield said there were "definitely more than two" individuals involved in the operation. "We're still working this," he said. "We're hoping it leads to more and we believe that it will."
Another law enforcement expert, Stan Kephart, said it was difficult to asses the exact value of such a large quantity of PCP because street prices can vary substantially throughout the country. But he expressed shock at the total volume seized.
"PCP is a very scary drug — basically what it does is take people on trips where they don't feel any pain," he said. "I can't even get my head around 130 gallons."
By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times
February 17, 2012
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