U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton announced the indictment of 14 individuals Thursday on charges related to a cross-country drug distribution pipeline.
“As of 9:15 (a.m.), 12 of the 14 defendants were in federal custody,” Hickton said. “They will appear today in federal court to be informed of the charges.”
Two of the 14 suspects, William Blair and James McCray, both from the Pittsburgh area, remain at large.
In October, the Department of Justice announced charges against 40 defendants associated with the national drug ring trafficking in heroine, crack and cocaine from Los Angeles to Homewood, often through Cleveland. Since then, 54 people in connection to the ring have been indicted.
Hickton said the public’s help has been critical to the investigation’s success.
“In fact, thanks to a tip from a caller in Minot, North Dakota, the FBI was able to locate fugitive Misha Cannon, a courier in this ring, who was responsible for transporting drug proceeds from our area back to California,” Hickton said.
One of the original 40 indicted, Cannon was arrested at a traffic stop in Northeastern Montana en route from his San Bernardino home in California to North Dakota.
The Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force investigation – conducted by federal, state and local police partners – began in 2013 to dismantle criminal enterprises believed to be distributing the drugs in the city's eastern neighborhoods.
The task force has led to the indictment of more than 100 defendants and the seizure of more than $1 million in cash and large quantities of weapons and drugs according to the FBI's Pittsburgh field office.
Hickton said the task force employed a multitude of techniques including the use of informants, physical and electronic surveillance, wiretaps and the collection of cellphone data.
But Pat Fallon, FBI assistant special agent in charge at the Pittsburgh office, said the community’s help is important to the investigation.
“The heroine problem is a multifaceted problem, the solution to it is also multifaceted, and the community is integral in solving this problem,” Fallon said. “Law enforcement has a role, but our role is limited.”
According to Hickton, Homewood was part of the pipeline as well as a destination for the drugs.
“The law-abiding citizens of Homewood deserve to be free from fear of violent activity and drug trafficking,” Hickton said. “We are committed to ensuring that they have that freedom.”