Allegheny County DA: More than $10.5 million worth of cocaine uncovered
By Margaret Harding
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 2:33 p.m.
An increase in drug overdoses, arrests and complaints from businesses in Monroeville kicked off a quick drug investigation that resulted in the seizure of $10.5 million worth of cocaine, authorities said Wednesday.
“That's a huge amount of cocaine,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said. It's the largest amount he's seen recovered during his 15 years in office, he said.
Officers were searching vehicles connected to the case even as Zappala announced the arrests of Faustino Hernandez Rodriguez, 36, a Mexican national, Leland Cobbs, 42, of Homewood and William Wilson, 42, of Penn Hills.
Police recovered 17 kilograms of cocaine in the arrests of the men on Tuesday, and the total grew to 21 kilos as they executed search warrants Wednesday, said Mike Manko, spokesman for the DA's office.
“These guys are big. This is a big deal,” Zappala said.
Monroeville police Chief Steven Pascarella said he went to the DA's office last week because of an increase in drug activity around hotels and businesses.
“There was just every indication there was a lot going on there,” Pascarella said. “We're seeing the trend in the eastern suburbs (of drugs) moving from the city. We're feeling the effect of that and we need to react.”
The DA's drug task force officers set up surveillance at the Days Inn hotel, one site where Pascarella suspected illegal activity. The officers saw a Honda Crosstour with Texas license plates in the parking lot and followed it to a home on Pinewood Square in Penn Hills, according to court records.
Officers watched a man, later identified as Cobbs, after he left the home and began driving erratically. A search of his vehicle turned up a bag with 13 kilos of cocaine. Police arrested Rodriguez after he left the house in the Honda, which had about $500,000 hidden in a secret compartment, Zappala said. He told officers his name was David Chavez Carbajal. Immigration officials later determined he was Rodriguez, who is wanted by police in several areas, including Texas, Zappala said.
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents are investigating where the drugs originated and whether Rodriguez has ties to a Mexican drug cartel, Special Agent Gary Davis said.
At Wilson's Pinewood Square home, police found two guns — one reported stolen out of Moon — 4 kilos of cocaine and other drugs, and more than $100,000 in cash, police said. Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton said police had not received any prior calls or complaints about the home, which Zappala described as “nondescript.”
“It's like a safehouse,” Zappala said “You're going to suburban Allegheny County because no one is going to follow up.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
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