With the arrest of 25 suspects, officials say they have cracked a drug ring that distributed about $10 million worth of crystal methamphetamine from Philadelphia to north-central Pennsylvania.
"These are upper- and midlevel distributors, not street-level dealers," Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, said Wednesday after a news conference.
The 25 were arraigned Monday in Penndel, Bucks County, and two others were sought in the investigation, dubbed Operation Blowout, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said.
The charges include participating in a corrupt organization, delivery of a controlled substance, and criminal conspiracy. Each drug-delivery count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years.
One of the top two alleged suppliers, Raul Cosme, 38, formerly of Reading, received meth shipments from Mexico, occasionally picking them up in Texas, according to a state grand jury presentment handed up in September.
The source of drugs for the other alleged top supplier, Sim Bradley, 72, of the 7000 block of Walnut Lane, Philadelphia, still is under investigation, Chief Deputy Attorney General Andrew Rongaus said.
Police seized a partially dismantled meth lab from a storage locker in Levittown, but "there is no evidence where the meth was made," Rongaus said.
They also seized about four pounds of crystal meth, nearly 100 firearms, $110,000 in cash, 16 vehicles, drug-packaging materials, containers used to hide drugs, and records indicating drug sales and money owed for purchases, Kelly said.
The public should care about the arrests because of the effects meth has on users and because of the guns, state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said.
"These people use a lot of guns," he said.
Nineteen of the suspects are from Bucks County, including one of the alleged top distributors, John Hodgson, 62, of Levittown, according to the presentment.
But the distribution network stretched from Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley to Lycoming and Tioga Counties, Kelly said.
The investigation started in January 2009, when agents with the Attorney General's Office got a tip about crystal meth distribution in Bucks and Berks Counties, the presentment said.
It widened in December 2010, when the agents learned of a state police investigation of some of the same suspects.
Wiretapped calls led to the tracing of the network to Cosme and Bradley.
The network was responsible for the distribution and sale of more than $3.5 million worth of crystal meth, Kelly said.
The street value of the meth would be about $10 million, Frederiksen said.
The suspects charged Monday were held in the Bucks County prison on bail ranging from $10,000 to $2 million.
"None of these guys are pharmacists," Noonan said. "Guys are making it in Mexico. Guys are mixing it up in bathtubs."
To read the attorney general's statement and the grand jury presentment, including the names of the 27 suspects, go to www.attorneygeneral.gov.