“More than 60 individuals have been charged federally here in the Western District of Pennsylvania and eight by the Western District of Washington,” acting U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti said during a news conference in Pittsburgh on Friday.
“An additional 25 defendants have been charged at the state level in Indiana and Westmoreland counties,” he said.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations in the Western District of Pennsylvania initially began investigating actions of a violent street gang.
“Here was a street level, violent gang from Cleveland that had set up shop here,” Rivetti said. “The investigation proceeded from there.”
The yearlong investigation using wiretaps revealed drug-trafficking operations in Indiana, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties in the Western District of Pennsylvania; Cleveland; Phoenix; Seattle; Minneapolis; Witchita, Kansas; and Mexico.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge William Walker said the investigation stemmed from a case “that began down the road in Johnstown.”
Rivetti said he could not give details of the Johnstown connection.
“That part of the investigation is ongoing,” Rivetti said.
“This is just the beginning of the prosecution.”
The multi-state operation disrupted a major narcotics pipeline.
“Nearly every family in western Pennsylvania has been touched in some way by the scourge of the opioid epidemic and the deadly drug fentanyl,” Rivetti said.
The wiretaps revealed that Arizona-sourced drugs, which consisted of fentanyl (in both pill and powdered forms), heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were being distributed in western Pennsylvania, he said.
Over the past 10 months, investigators have seized more than 673 pounds of fentanyl- laced prescription pills, more than 400 pounds of methamphetamine and more than 16 pounds each of fentanyl powder and cocaine, over $600,000 in cash, nine vehicles and 47 firearms.
The indictment lists Robert Hurst, 44, of North Royalton, Ohio, as a key player.
“This investigation will cause ripples within drug-trafficking markets through the country,” Walker said.
“Most importantly, cases like this one save lives.”
Source: The Tribune Democrat