Nearly 20 Maryland residents ran a massive drug ring out of a music studio in District Heights and a housing complex in Silver Spring, federal prosecutors said after the accused drug traffickers were arrested Monday.
Following more than a year of surveillance, wire taps and residents' complaints about open-air drug markets, 18 people were arrested on drug charges Monday morning in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Federal prosecutors executed 32 federal warrants, searching 29 homes and two businesses in the residential neighborhoods of District Heights and Silver Spring, Maryland.
Twelve people conspired to distribute crack cocaine and heroin on and near the 14000 block of Bel Pre Drive in Silver Spring, according to prosecutors. Neighbors said they had been living with drug deals on playgrounds where they wished they could take their children.
Another four people conspired to sell drugs out of a music studio on the 7900 block of Cryden Way in District Heights, prosecutors said. A company called Crooked House Entertainment was a front for the operation, according to officials.
Inside homes and businesses, officials found large amounts of drugs, more than 11 guns and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
Twelve Maryland residents were charged with conspiring to distribute at least 280 grams of crack cocaine, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine or 100 grams or more of heroin as part of the Bel Pre Drive network: Frederick J. Davis, 31; William T. "Fats" Fergerson, 42; George Earl Gee, 37; Tiki Harmon, 42; Amir "Meano" Bey-Jones, 41; Keenan Jones, 54; Jovan Brian "Juvie" Lancaster, 30; Joseph Miles, 62; Brandon Richardson, 30; Alfonso Salazar, 38; Ryan Snowden, 30; Sonya Darby "Peaches" Thomas, 37 and Rayvon Walls, 25.
Gee, Miles, Snowden, Richardson and Salazar also were charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
The indictment seeks for the Bel Pre Drive network to forfeit $400,000, and names Gee as the leader of the group.
Another four Maryland residents were charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine and at least 1 kilogram of heroin as part of the District Heights network: Vincent Collins, 36; Sierra Lynch, 37; Anthony Niles, 36 and Abdul Hakim Sauda, 30.
Niles and Sauda also were charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine.
The indictment seeks for the District Heights network to forfeit $280,000, and names Niles as the leader of the group.
Federal and local officials said they hope they'll see a dip in crime after the arrests.
"This case I hope will make an impact not only by reducing the availability of drugs in this area, but also in eliminating the related violence," U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.
"We've seen over the past year shootings and other violent crimes that have occurred that I believe have a link back to this group," Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said.
The yearlong investigation was a collaboration among the FBI, Montgomery County police and Prince George's County police, as well as detectives in Philadelphia and New Jersey, where a man also was charged.
All 18 defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Additional arrests may be on the way, prosecutors said.