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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
May 20, 2003
For more information, contact:

Mary H. Vaira, DEA PIO, 215-861-3287.

Major Heroin Organization Dismantled From The Source In Colombia To The Streets of Philadelphia

photo of heroinMay 20--Today, as a result of a two year investigation, a major heroin organization that operated from the source of supply in Colombia to New York/Newark and to the streets of Philadelphia, was dismantled. This Colombian-Dominican trafficking organization was totally exposed from the retail street level managers, couriers, and wholesalers to the source of supply in Medellin, Colombia. Twenty one arrest warrants and seven search warrants were issued in Philadelphia, along with arrest and search warrants in New York, Newark and Colombia resulting in 30 arrests which took place early this morning in the four locations mentioned above. This operation in all the locations mentioned above has arrested 45 defendants, and seized approximately 14 kilograms of heroin and $320,000 to date.

James M. Kasson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Philadelphia Division, stated that this investigation which covers heroin trafficking from the "farm to the arm" is very significant due to the extremely high purity level of heroin in the City of Philadelphia. "Philadelphia has had the highest heroin purity in the country for a number of years. When I arrived here I started a 'Heroin Initiative' to focus on the extreme heroin problem in Philadelphia and in the surrounding areas. This investigation targets the heroin problem in Philadelphia. This investigation also tells me that this city is no longer just a user city, but it is now a major Gateway city for heroin."

The arrest warrants and search warrants in Philadelphia were authorized by Federal Magistrate Judge Melinson on Friday, May 16, 2003. Sixteen members of the Franklin Santos Drug Trafficking Organization were arrested by DEA agents and Philadelphia Police Department Task Force Officers early this morning, four guns and gram quantites of crack and heroin were seized along with $3,400 USC. Four persons were arrested in Newark along with $37,000 and four vehicles, five persons were arrested in New York along with four and a half kilograms of heroin and $125,000. Four individuals were arrested in Colombia this morning. At the same time DEA agents, and police officers executed search warrants at seven locations in Philadelphia, one was a storefront and six were private residences.

Kasson, United States Attorney Patrick Meehan, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, announced these arrests this afternoon at a joint press conference. Mr. Meehan stated that "This was a dangerous organization whose tentacles reached well beyond the borders of the Delaware Valley. This case demonstrates the value of teamwork among federal and state law enforcement officials, as well as the critical role of cooperation among US Attorney and DEA offices from across the country. In particular, I thank Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department for their support and efforts in this case."

The target of the investigation was the Franklin Santos Heroin Organization. According to affidavits filed in support of the arrests and search warrants, Santos, a Dominican national, 34 years of age, living at 7400 Roosevelt Blvd, in Philadelphia was supplied by a heroin organization based in Colombia. Santos headed the Philadelphia organization along with Carlos Tapia, who previously lived in Philadelphia but moved to New York due to pressure from law enforcement. They imported heroin from Colombian sources of supply in kilogram quantities. The heroin was brought to the northeast and then was transported to Philadelphia to be sold by Dominican traffickers. The Santos Organization is responsible for distributing kilogram quantities of heroin throughout Philadelphia. Three street level distribution locations have been identified.

Investigative leads identified members of the organization in New York, Newark and Medellin, Colombia. DEA offices along with the Colombian National Police then conducted their own investigations.

During the investigation, DEA agents seized approximately thee and one half kilograms of heroin in Philadelphia in February 2003. This heroin seizure occurred when the organization had attempted to deliver a heroin shipment into Philadelphia from New York. In April 2003, approximately four kilograms of heroin were seized from members of the organization in New York as couriers were riding on a bus destined for Philadelphia. Later in the month, two kilograms of heroin were seized from a courier in Colombia as the heroin was being prepared to be sent to the US.

The defendants in this investigation are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, in excess of one kilogram of heroin and also with possessing with intent to distribute heroin.

This case will be prosecuted by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. If convicted the defendants could receive sentences of up to life in prison.

DEA would also like to thank the US Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, US Marshal's Service and the Pennsylvania State Police Canine Unit for their assistance in this investigation.


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