The days may not be so "merry and bright" for an East Mount Airy man whose dreams of a "white Christmas" - of the Peruvian-marching-powder variety - were foiled by the cops.
Police yesterday were searching for Grady Dennis, 41, who they allege stuffed about 160 grams of cocaine into Christmas cards that he mailed to Philadelphia from Peru.
The coke-filled cards were sent to Dennis' friends and relatives, who were all "expecting a white Christmas - but not in the traditional sense," Narcotics Chief Inspector William Blackburn said yesterday.
Investigators are in the process of getting arrest warrants for Dennis and his wife, Yolanda. The Philly couple was supposed to return to the city yesterday on a Southwest Airlines flight from Florida, where the two have been vacationing.
The return trip, however, was abruptly canceled. "Someone got a hold of him," Narcotics Capt. Chris Werner said of Dennis, who last visited Peru in October.
A U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agent last week intercepted four of the cards - all written in Spanish - and notified police, Werner said.
Each card contained a large, folded Ziploc bag filled with about 40 grams of coke, Werner said. The cards read, in part, "I'm sending this card, which makes me so happy, and through it I want to express immense affection toward you."
On Monday, Werner said, Narcotics Field Unit Sgt. Bill Torpey and Officers Tim Bogen and Gina Jackson repackaged the cards and delivered them to the intended recipients.
They first wound up at the West Philly home of Jack Ferguson, 45, who has a record of drug arrests that stretch back a decade, according to court records.
Werner said the cops knocked on Ferguson's door, on Atwood Street near Jefferson, and told him they were neighbors who had received his mail by mistake.
"The officers asked if the card belonged to him and he said, 'Yeah, that's mine,' " Werner said.
When the narcotics cops returned shortly after with a search warrant, they found Ferguson flushing the cocaine down his bathroom toilet, Werner said.
Another one of the coke cards was addressed to Dennis' mother's house on Marshall Street near Chew Avenue in East Oak Lane.
Cops yesterday arrested Thura Dennis, 62, for her alleged involvement in the drug-smuggling operation. Ferguson and Thura Dennis were being held on drugs, weapons and conspiracy charges.
A third card was to be sent to Grady Dennis' home on Michener Avenue near Wadsworth in the city's Cedarbrook section. Between Dennis' house and his mother's house, cops recovered about $10,000 worth of cocaine, three guns, $20,000 in cash and two scales, Werner said.
According to court records, Dennis was sentenced in February 2006 to a year of probation for possessing a controlled substance.
Blackburn said that so far this year, the narcotics unit has seized $11 million cash, about $125 million in drugs, about 1,000 guns, and has served close to 1,800 warrants. *
Staff writers David Gambacorta and Regina Medina contributed to this report.