Indictments 'dismantle' Homestead drug ring
U.S. Attorney David Hickton speaks during a news conference Thursday at the Federal Courthouse Building, Downtown, announcing the dismantling of a heroin trafficking ring in Homestead.
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Federal law enforcement officials announced Thursday a roundup of a Homestead-area drug ring stemming from the indictments last week of 34 accused heroin dealers.
The indictments include teenagers connected to a gang known as the "Uptown Crew" that sold heroin in Homestead and is connected to increased incidents of violence in the area, according to U.S. attorney David Hickton.
The gang brought in between a half-kilo and kilo of heroin every three weeks from Newark, N.J., that was "distributed on our streets in the smallest of quantities," according to Michael Christman, a supervisory special agent at the FBI.
Members of the Uptown Crew were often armed, and the FBI has seized about a dozen guns so far, Mr. Christman said.
All six related indictments were unsealed Thursday and include a range of narcotics and firearm charges, including conspiracy to distribute heroin, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and conspiring to employ people under 18 to distribute heroin.
Mr. Hickton was flanked by representatives from the FBI, county, city and Munhall police, but no one from the Homestead police.
When asked about Homestead police involvement in the investigation, Mr. Christman said some Homestead officers were involved but, "We did not disclose the investigation to maintain the covert nature of the investigation. We are very concerned that the [wiretapping] technique remain covert."
The Uptown Crew is a "large-scale heroin trafficking business," special agent David Hedges said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant request.
Since September of last year, federal authorities intercepted phone calls, text messages and "ping" location data from suspected gang members, often uncovering conversations about the sale and distribution of the "Stars" brand of heroin, according to the affidavit.
But heroin has not always dominated the Pittsburgh drug market, according to Mr. Christman. The market used to be largely dominated by cocaine.
"As we stand here right now, heroin is the drug of choice, and it's primarily what's being distributed by our gangs," Mr. Christman said.
He added that if those who have been accused are successfully prosecuted, "it will effectively dismantle [the Uptown Crew] and it will also severely cripple its source of drug supply."
Mr. Hickton said the Uptown Crew employed people as young as 14 to evade prosecution.
"We risk losing another generation of our youth if this is the route they decide to take ... it makes the neighborhoods more at risk when you have these 14, 15, 16-year-old kids being employed as runners or worse."
Police are still looking for: Richard Wood, 33, of Swissvale; Seth Lindsey, 18, of Homestead; Dorianne Harris, 20, of Wilkinsburg; and Edward Cook, 25, of Homestead.
First Published March 15, 2013 12:00 am