Delaware State Police say they have made a record-setting drug bust in the southern part of the state: more than 330,000 bags of heroin, including 2,500 “logs” of the opioid with a street value of more than $1.6 million.
Investigation into what police described as a major drug ring started in November 2020, with the identification of George Johnson as the alleged ringleader. After listening to months of wiretapped conversations into late 2021, investigators identified multiple members of the organization and the group’s hierarchy.
Police said Johnson’s organization was targeted because of a series of overdose incidents involving drugs that were stamped connected to the distribution group. In the first half of 2021, police said, there were 16 overdoses in Delaware related to drugs bearing the group’s labels, with more in Maryland.
“This was not a drug seizure alone. This is something far greater, and this is something far more impactful to the people of the state of Delaware and in particular to the people of Sussex County,” said state Attorney General Kathy Jennings.
“In the midst of an addiction epidemic that claims in Delaware more than 400 lives a year and in which Delaware has consistently been among the three hardest-hit states in the entire country, this operation undoubtedly saved lives,” Jennings said.
Dubbed “Operation Dawg House,” the bust involved state and local police agencies in Delaware and Maryland, as well as the FBI and the members of the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.
A total of 55 people were indicted for their alleged involvement in the ring. So far, 44 people have been arrested on 232 felony charges. Another nine suspects are currently wanted on 114 felony charges.
“While we see the scope of illegal drugs seized, it can be hard to measure the full gravity these individuals and drugs have had on our state and on our communities,” said Nathaniel McQueen, secretary of Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
McQueen said that though there have been ongoing efforts to provide services and help to those experiencing substance abuse disorder, there is also a need to eliminate the supply side.
“We must also continue our proactive efforts of enforcement to prevent deadly drugs and violent criminal organizations from impacting our communities,” McQueen said.
In addition to the seized heroin, police took $65,000 in cash, three vehicles, guns, and some ammunition.