Federal officials say they’ve punctured a pair of Chester drug gangs after indicting 22 people Wednesday morning.
Those 22 defendants face a combined 89 charges, related mainly to drug possession, drug dealing, and illegal possession of guns.
Law enforcement nabbed 13 of the 22 men after a series of early morning raids, some of which involved SWAT teams. The other nine defendants were already in prison.
Officials said the pair of gangs have “terrorized” the western part of Chester for years.
“Today, this reign of terror ends,” said William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The 22 people charged on Wednesday ranged in age from 20 to 57. Thirteen of the 22 belonged to a gang that officials dubbed “3rd Bone.” The remainder, officials allege, are part of a drug trafficking group called “William Penn,” named after the William Penn housing projects.
Officials charged both gangs with distributing crack, cocaine, and heroin.
Over the course of the three-year investigation, each gang dealt at least 280 grams of crack cocaine, according to lead prosecutor Sean McDonnell. Officials did not give a specific amount at Wednesday’s press briefing, nor did they detail the street value of the drugs distributed by each gang.
The authorities also claim the gangs fought with each other regularly, and that members exchanged gunfire in a shooting in February that left one member of the “3rd Bone” group seriously injured. Though officials say the gangs were violent, the indictments do not include any charges of homicide or assault.
If convicted, McSwain said, all 22 defendants will face “lengthy prison sentences.” The lead defendants in each case — Issac Barrett, 33, of Essington, and Deshaun Davis, 34, of Chester — could serve life in prison, McSwain added.
The arrests were the culmination of an investigation that, according to the indictment, goes back to at least 2016. Officials emphasized at Wednesday morning’s news conference that the case involved coordination among several federal, state, and local agencies. Those included the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Chester Police Department.
Law enforcement made its final move at 6 a.m. Wednesday, conducting the sweep that picked up 13 of the defendants. No one was hurt during the arrests, officials said.
“In my 22 years in the bureau … I’ve never personally had an operation of this size where we went out and got every single one of our subjects,” said Joe Bushner Harpster, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office.
Wednesday’s arrests may not be the only ones to emerge from this investigation, officials said. But they added that they’ve done enough already to significantly damage the two groups.
“This is a big blow,” said McSwain.