Standing before a table sagging with the weight of cocaine bricks, top local and federal law enforcement officials announced yesterday that they had made the biggest seizure of cocaine - 748 pounds - in city history.
Two South Philadelphia men - a father and son - were arrested and as much as $800,000 was seized in Philadelphia and New Jersey properties the family owned, police said.
"I can't think of a bigger bust in my 26 years in the Narcotics Department," said Chief Inspector William Blackburn. He put the street value of the haul at $28 million.
Arrested were Ricardo McKendrick Sr., 56, and his son Ricardo McKendrick Jr., 36. They were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute, according to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.
U.S. Attorney General Patrick L. Meehan described the father, known as "Little Ricky," as a "big-time drug dealer in a family-run operation."
Seven 55-gallon drums filled with cocaine were confiscated, along with a pile of cocaine bricks, authorities said.
Police said the sophisticated operation, uncovered in a stash house in the 2600 block of Federal Street, included a hydraulic press that pressed the cocaine into one-kilogram bricks. Blackburn said the operation also included a machine that cut the cocaine with inert ingredients.
About $62,000 in cash and a .38-caliber handgun were seized at the house - but far more money was allegedly found in Woodstown, N.J., at a property owned by a member of the family. There, police said, they found 15 duffel bags filled with between $500,000 and $800,000 in cash.
Officials were tight-lipped about where the cocaine came from, where it was headed, and how it was distributed. They said they could not say more because the investigation was continuing.
The seizure, officials said, was the result of a joint operation involving Philadelphia police undercover narcotics units, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Blackburn said he expected the seizure to put a dent in cocaine trafficking, especially in South Philadelphia.
"I think there will be a shortage of drugs on the street," he said, "but not for an extended period of time."
The haul far outstripped a February 2007 cocaine bust that authorities said then was the largest in the city's history. In that seizure, police confiscated 100 kilograms of cocaine worth $10 million that was hidden amid boxes of moldy papayas inside a tractor-trailer.
Mayor Nutter, on hand for yesterday's news conference, praised the cooperation of the various law enforcement agencies.
"We are not playing around," he said. "We are taking the city back. Anyone who doesn't understand that needs to get out."