Federal, state and local law enforcement officials said Wednesday that a series of raids by 400 officers had broken up what they called a major South-Central Los Angeles cocaine and heroin ring that maintained control by threats, intimidation and murder.
One of the ringleaders was identified as an associate of the reputed leader of the violent Black Guerrilla Family prison gang.
U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner, state Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and representatives of other task force agencies announced at a Los Angeles Federal Courthouse news conference that 19 suspects had been rounded up at several locations overnight and that two others were already in custody on other charges.
Another 23 were still being sought.
Bonner said the ring was believed responsible for "several murders over the years" as it manufactured "crack," or rock cocaine, operated Los Angeles area rock houses and distributed both cocaine and heroin to dealers in such cities as Detroit and Oakland.
The group, he said, "was very instrumental in supplying hundreds, if not thousands, of street dealers with crack and heroin in this area."
Active in Black Communities
Van de Kamp called it "a big case . . . an important case" involving a ring that had been active primarily in the black communities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Inglewood and the San Fernando Valley, while also dispatching drug runners across the nation.
"The people of those communities can rest a little easier tonight," Van de Kamp said, "knowing those ringleaders are behind bars."
Identified as the distribution kingpin was Elrader (Ray Ray) Browning Jr., 32, who once was charged with murdering two men in a Pacoima restaurant on orders from Black Guerilla Family gang leader James Harold (Doc) Holiday. Those charges were dropped because key testimony was obtained by hypnosis and was ruled inadmissible.
The other suspected leader of the alleged drug organization was identified as Edward McFadden. Browning was among those arrested, officials said. McFadden was not yet in custody.
Assistant U.S. Atty. John Gordon said he believes that Los Angeles is "the rock cocaine capital" of the nation and that the ring has been a major factor.
Complaints charging the defendants with manufacturing and distributing cocaine, distributing heroin and conspiracy were unsealed in Los Angeles federal court. Affidavits indicated that the arrests culminated a two-year undercover investigation involving court-ordered wiretaps and the tailing of alleged drug runners from city to city.
Joining the U.S. attorney's office and the state attorney general's office in the task force effort were the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the police departments of Pasadena, Los Angeles, Inglewood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.
The searches resulted in confiscation of more than 15 pounds of cocaine and rock cocaine and $300,000 in cash, officials said. In addition, four homes, an apartment building and 10 cars were seized under federal drug forfeiture laws.
Before the arrests, the officials said, agents had seized $500,000 in cash as well as 70 pounds of cocaine from alleged couriers in Detroit and Chicago.
Bonner said, "We believe that when the case is concluded, that many millions of dollars in assets will be seized by the federal government."
Among those in custody was John (Big John) Milan, 31, who, according to an affidavit, told a DEA investigator that two men tried to kill him in a Detroit hotel room last December after he realized that police were watching two suitcases full of cocaine at a bus station and he failed to pick them up.
Milan reportedly told the investigator that he was convinced that Browning ordered him killed in the belief that he had stolen the cocaine. Milan agreed to cooperate with government prosecutors, according to the affidavit, and "has provided information concerning the structure of the Browning-McFadden organization. . . . "
The documents said that in addition to the 1979 murder charges that were dismissed, Browning had been charged with arson for the 1982 firebombing of the home of a rival drug dealer. He was convicted, but that conviction was reversed by an appeals court.