SCRANTON – A single confidential informant helped spur an investigation that wiped out two competing drug rings responsible for 75 to 80 percent of the heroin sales in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, the state’s top prosecutor said.
The two rings, independently operated by separate members of the New York City street gang called the “Bloods,” sold a total of 3,000 small bags of heroin per week since April, Attorney General Tom Corbett said.
That’s equivalent to sales totaling $3.85 million.
“Where you seek high profits, you run great risks,” Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas said at a press conference announcing the anticipated arrest of 27 drug dealers. “And today I think we’re seeing the risk that these individuals face.”
Agents from various forces were in the process of rounding up the rings’ alleged dealers Thursday, including five Luzerne County residents, in a sweep called “Operation Smackdown,” the largest investigation ever done by Corbett’s office in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The rings were based in Scranton, but the heroin sales spread into Luzerne County towns, Corbett said at the press conference inside the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Scranton.
And police aren’t finished.
Corbett said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected. But he also suspects more dealers from New York City will make their way here to exploit the drug market.
“Gang members from New York City are moving into the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area to corner the drug market,” he said. “As long as society does not cut the demand, there’s going to be somebody that comes in and tries to fill the void that this creates.”
Those arrested Thursday were arraigned in Scranton and will be prosecuted in Lackawanna County Court by Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert O’Hara.
Arrest papers indicate investigators learned of leaders of the rings from an informant.
Investigators later used several confidential informants to buy drugs from the dealers at various locations, including a Scranton barber shop. They also used a series of wiretaps and surveillance to “determine the scope” of the rings and “identify suppliers.”
Corbett identified Ricardo Cruz and Sekoua “Koo” Lashley, both Bloods, as leaders of a group of 20 heroin dealers.
He identified Siburt Walter and Jose Quintero, also Bloods, as leaders of a second ring of seven dealers.
Four more dealers, Kirk Lord, Victor Diaz Jr., Antuan Been and Aaron Moore, were also Bloods, Corbett said.
According to Corbett and arrest papers:
Cruz would send Lashley to get heroin from Victor Garcia’s New York City barber shop. Sometimes, Garcia would help transport the drugs here in his vehicle equipped with hidden compartments.
Cruz stored the heroin in a “stash house” on Gaston Place in Scranton, and established a “wide network” of dealers, Corbett said.
Those dealers obtained large amounts of heroin from him and then established their own smaller networks in both counties.
“Our arrests today are only in the first phase of this investigation,” Corbett said. “We anticipate further arrests at both ends of the stream of commerce.”
In the second ring, Walter allegedly placed teenagers from New York in Scranton homes to traffic drugs.
Pittston resident Danielle McDermott, 25, of East Frothingham Street, also obtained large amounts from that ring’s leaders and sold heroin “primarily in the Pittston area,” Corbett said.
Corbett said the ringleaders relocated to the area from New York City specifically to “establish a drug enterprise.”
And they ended up competing against each other in price and quality of heroin, Corbett said.
“Our heroin users would prefer a particular brand of heroin,” he said.
Dealers in this ring branded the heroin as Impulse, Red Monkey, Never Broke, Titanic, It’s Over Man, Rolling Stone, Southern Smoke, VIP, Mercedes-Benz, and True Reflection.
“If one organization did not have the Red Monkey, then the purchaser would go look for Red Monkey from another organization,” Corbett said.
The following people were charged Thursday with a multitude of drug charges for their role in a heroin-selling ring:
Victor Garcia, 30, Bronx, N.Y.; Ricardo Cruz, 31, Scranton; Christina Cavezza, 27, Scranton; Paulette Sunday, 21, Scranton; Victor Murcia, 27, Scranton; Sekoua “Koo” Lashley, 27, Scranton; Tori Wilson, 21, Scranton; Dorian Spellman, no age given, Old Forge; Anthony Guglielmo, 33, Scranton; Paul Warrick, 27, Greenfield Township; Michael Bauman, 51, Griffith Street, Pittston; John Appnel, 46, Swetland Street, Duryea; Karen Novak, 45, Ridgewood Road, Plains Township; Lori Detrick, 39, Scranton; Daniel Halapin, 39, Atherton Street, Wyoming; Thomas Howells, 36, Mayfield; Cathy Ryzner, 43, South Everette Avenue, Scranton; Amy Jones, 30, Dickson City; Kirk Lord, 22, an inmate at the Lackawanna County Jail; and Amanda Woronekin, no age given, Scranton;
The following people were charged for their role in a second heroin-selling ring:
Siburt “SB” Walter, 32, New York City; Jose “Diddy” Quintero, 23, Scranton; Aaron Moore, 19, Scranton; Jackie Novak, 25, Scranton; Antuan “Booby” Been, 21, Scranton; Victor Diaz Jr., 27, Scranton; and Danielle McDermott, 25, East Frothingham Street, Pittston;
State Attorney General Tom Corbett identified Cruz, Lashley, Walter, Quintero, Lord, Been, Diaz and Moore as members of the New York City street gang called the “Bloods.”