32 indicted in 'significant' cocaine trafficking rings
A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has indicted 32 people for their roles in what U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan calls "several significant drug-trafficking operations" that flooded Homewood, Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg with cocaine.
The indictments, which were unsealed Thursday, were the result of a long-term investigation involving state, federal, county and city investigators.
The indictments, which were handed down last week, accuse the 32 individuals of distributing multiple kilograms of cocaine to the eastern neighborhoods on a regular basis since March 2004.
Most of the defendants were in custody last night.
Walter Rodriguez Oliver, also known as "Big Cutty," 32, who in March bought a $245,000 home on Leechburg Road in Penn Hills, was identified during his initial appearance and detention hearing yesterday as a leader of the ring.
Keith M. Meade, also known as "Showtime," 35, of Worthington Avenue, Clairton, was identified in court as the owner of a trucking business, prosecutors said. Investigators seized $130,000 in cash in a search of his home this week.
It was one of 12 searches conducted this week, including two at locations near schools in Homewood.
"These indictments disrupt several significant drug-trafficking operations that have been responsible for flooding our eastern city and suburban neighborhoods with powder cocaine and crack cocaine," Buchanan said.
"Prosecutors and investigators look forward to bringing these alleged traffickers to justice, so that we can further reduce the availability of illegal drugs and the resulting violence in the Greater Pittsburgh area."
The majority of the defendants could face sentences of between 10 years and life in prison and fines of $4 million if convicted.
Authorities said the indictments were the result of a cooperative effort among the various law enforcement agencies.
"This is the type of cooperation that will make Pittsburgh a safer city," Mayor Bob O'Connor said. "These arrests demonstrate the success that results when everyone works together."
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration Web site, the popularity of crack cocaine remains unsurpassed in Pennsylvania because of its wide availability.
Crack cocaine use continues to infiltrate inner-city neighborhoods, as well as smaller urban and rural sites throughout Pennsylvania, the Web site states.