Correction: This story has been updated to correct the location of the law enforcement investigation in 2018 as being in the western Pennsylvania area.
(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com)– Acting United States Attorney Troy Rivetti announced in a press release Friday that 57 people have been charged with violating federal narcotics and firearms laws as part of a five-year investigation.
According to the release, investigators seized more than 673 pounds of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, over 400 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 16 pounds each of fentanyl powder and cocaine, over $600,000 in cash, nine vehicles and 47 firearms over the last 10 months.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security in coordination with PA law enforcement began investigating what’s described as a violent street gang in western Pennsylvania back in the beginning of 2018. Over the course of four years and over 50 controlled buys later, to go along with information from confidential sources, authorities were able to commence court-authorized wiretaps of suspects’ telephones.
Those wiretaps showed that the organization was trafficking drugs in the following areas around the country: Indiana, Westmoreland, and Armstrong counties in Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and in Mexico and were coming from Arizona.
“The Department of Justice is working tirelessly to remove deadly fentanyl from our communities and to dismantle and hold accountable the violent cartels and drug-trafficking organizations responsible for distributing it,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti. “We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to save lives. Operation Lake Effect exemplifies that commitment.”
Of the 57 people charged, 25 face charges of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances, from August 2018 to February 2023.
Another 29 people face charges of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms (5 KG) or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, 400 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, and 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, from April 2022 to January 2023.
Finally, three people face charges of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine.
The full list of individuals charged along with the full report are available on the United States Attorney’s Office website here.