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Massive Bust Sinks National Drug Distribution Ring

REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

A two-year drug investigation has culminated with more than four dozen arrests and the bust of a massive drug distribution ring trafficking heroin, meth and cocaine throughout the country.

Authorities in Chester County, Penn., arrested 49 individuals for their role in the operation, which extended across the U.S. from the Delaware Valley to Arizona and even Puerto Rico. The bulk of the methamphetamine used in the operation came from Arizona due to easy access to labs in Mexico, which produce the most potent product, reports ABC 6.

The arrests were the result of a two-year joint investigation by the Chester County Detectives and Pennsylvania State Police dubbed “Operation Crushed Ice.” Police seized undisclosed amounts of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prescription narcotics during a number of raids conducted in January. They also confiscated roughly 40 firearms, more than 20 cars, scales and packaging materials.

“Drug dealers are like a virus,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan told Philly Voice. “They constantly shift and mutate, finding new ways to avoid detection and cause harm. Law enforcement works constantly to stay one step ahead of these individuals.”

The leader of the operation, 27-year-old Richard Maitre, initially sparked suspicion when he began selling drugs from prison in 2015. Police discovered the drug ring received shipments through ground and air transport after wiretapping Maitre’s phone. Authorities also learned Maitre encouraged violence within the organization, ordering several co-conspirators to severely beat a dealer after missing a payment.

“The activities of this [drug operation] had a far-reaching impact on many lives,” Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Maurice Tomlinson told Philly Voice. “Law enforcement cooperation was an integral factor in this investigation being successful. Agencies from around the country, county and state worked cooperatively to bring Maitre’s reign in Chester County to an end.”

Authorities throughout the country are fighting higher rates of drug trafficking, driven by the national demand for opioids. Opioids claimed a record number of lives in 2015, eclipsing deaths in auto accidents and contributing to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993. Whether heroin or prescription painkillers, opioids now account for roughly 63 percent of drug fatalities.

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