A drug ring that moved more than 800 pounds of crystal methamphetamine from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, then spread the narcotic throughout the Mid-Atlantic, has been shut down, Montgomery County authorities said Tuesday.
In what officials described as one of the largest drug busts in county history, authorities arrested five men and seized drugs with a street value estimated at between $2.6 million and $3.7 million.
Tyrone Baker, 29, of East Lansdowne; Shakeem Johnson, 27, of Philadelphia; Joshua Quiles, 31, of King of Prussia; Jhamir Winans, 21, of Exton; and Ricky Evans, 28, of Los Angeles, were charged with operating a corrupt organization, as well as more than 100 counts each of felony drug offenses, said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
All five remained in custody as of Tuesday in lieu of bail, set at $3 million for Baker, Winans, and Evans, and $1 million for Quiles and Johnson.
In a sweeping, nearly 600-page affidavit of probable cause for the arrests, detectives said the group bought the drugs from a lab in Mexico and sold them across the country. They paid each other using encrypted online applications such as CashApp. At the same time, authorities said, they sometimes sent drugs through the U.S. mail.
Using the mail, UPS, and other couriers, Evans sent 91 packages from Los Angeles to the Philadelphia area between October 2019 and December 2021, according to the filing.
The ring was first identified last March, when an undercover police officer in Lower Merion bought two pounds of meth from a local drug dealer and learned of the larger organization, which had been supplying that dealer and others.
Through surveillance, intercepted phone calls, and text messages, detectives learned that the group was selling drugs across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and parts of West Virginia, according to the affidavit.
Local investigators later learned that the U.S. Postal Service and other federal investigators had been conducting their own investigation and had recovered 15 packages of meth the group had tried to send cross-country.
Steele, in announcing the arrests, said law enforcement officials had “shut off a significant pipeline for methamphetamine to the entire Southeastern Pennsylvania region.”