Pennsylvania investigators said Thursday they charged six people after recovering more than a quarter-ton of cocaine from a Philadelphia warehouse and two vehicles.
The investigation involved a drug-trafficking organization that smuggled large quantities of cocaine from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to various locations in the US, including Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said in a release.
According to the attorney general’s office, citing narcotics experts, once the 511 pounds cocaine seized had been cut and packaged for distribution, it would have a retail street value of $23,200,000.
The arrest report said officers followed a vehicle leaving the warehouse Monday night to a parking lot, watched as the driver met with occupants of another vehicle, then stopped both and searched them, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators could see what appeared to be packages of cocaine in one of the vehicles, and it was later determined to be cocaine weighing more than 80 pounds, they said.
After getting a search warrant for the warehouse, police seized 423 pounds of cocaine and made three arrests. The investigation also recovered $77,000, a money counter, and a heat sealer — a device that can be used by drug traffickers.
Francisco Severino-Ortega of Washington Heights, New York, Argenis Dioscoris Grullon of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Juan Rojas of the Bronx, New York, were all arrested following the two traffic stops.
Michael Perez of Puerto Rico, Jose Morales of Kissimmee, Florida, and John Olmedo of Philadelphia were arrested in connection with the seizure at the warehouse.
They were charged with one count each of manufacturing, delivery or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, and possession of a controlled substance, the attorney general’s office said.
None of them had a defense lawyer listed in the online court docket, the AP noted.
This seizure comes about two months after a woman arriving from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was stopped at Philadelphia International Airport with almost 10 pounds of cocaine worth $300,000 hidden in 10 instant-chocolate-drink-mix containers.
Philadelphia’s central location in the northeastern US and its proximity to major highways and other transport routes has made it a drug-distribution hub. Cheap, high-quality meth is believed to pass through the city in abundance, and has reportedly become a “mecca” for meth users.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.