12 charged in bust of Kensington drug, gun trafficking ring, officials say

Federal agents, local police and other officials announced charges following the takedown of a drug and gun trafficking organization that, they say, operated in the Kensington section of Philadelphia

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Law enforcement officials -- including members of the U.S Attorney's Office, the ATF, Philadelphia Police Department and other law enforcement agencies -- announced charges against 12 people following the dismantling of a drug and gun trafficking organization that, officials said, operated in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood on Thursday.

During the day, Jacqueline Romero, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said that police have arrested 10 of those believed to be involved in this criminal organization while one person -- Ángel Vélez, 33-years-old --  is in custody awaiting transfer and a final individual -- 28-year-old Ahmed Pérez -- is still at large.

Following a months-long investigation, she said, police apprehended Wilfredo Avila, 30, who they believe ran a criminal organization in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

Officials, she said, have brought at least 84 separate charges against the 12 people charged in this crime.

Federal officials and Philadelphia police announced charges against 12 people after investigators dismantled a drug and gun trafficking organization that they say operated in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. NBC10’s Yukare Nakayama has the details. 

"Ultimately, I hope this takedown underscores the United States Attorney's Office's commitment to tackling the dual and deadly threats of narcotics and firearms and to holding the perpetrators accountable," she said. "And, I hope it sends a message to all the other drug and gun traffickers and would be gun and drug traffickers who are out there. My message is clear: You're next."

Romero said officials believe that, since at lease February of last year, Avila operated a criminal organization that sold guns and drugs from a number of locations, but mainly out of properties in Harrowgate.

"They pushed their poison in the area of the 2900 block of Lawrence Street, the 3300 block of North American Street and elsewhere throughout the city," said Romero.

Through the course of this investigation, she said, 57 guns were bought or seized by police -- including personally made weapons, often called ghost guns, along with assault rifles, stolen firearms and illegally modified guns.

Also, Romero said, officials recovered at least two kilograms of cocaine and 19,000 packets of suspected fentanyl.

Romero said that officials searched at least 14 properties throughout Kensington that, police officials believe, were used by this group.

The remaining individuals who were charged in this case are: Chanel Diaz Oscar, 48, Zaisa Diaz, 59, Marcelino Minaya Lebron, 44, Noel Arce, 26, Abdul Ortiz, 37, Juan Acosta, 55, Angel Colon, 35, Alexander Roman Delgado, 33 and 30-year-old Jose Rodriguez.

These individuals are facing a variety of charges including conspiracy, drug possession, firearms trafficking and related offenses.

Ongoing efforts in Kensington

Working to improve the Kensington community has been a focus for City Hall ever since Mayor Cherelle Parker stepped into office.

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City councilmembers also created a caucus aimed at improving the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, city council passed an 11 p.m. curfew for Kensington businesses that are not licensed to be open for 24 hours.

A plan to improve the area kicked off last month when city workers and police cleared an encampment of about 75 people living in tents along the sidewalk of Kensington Avenue.

Last week, officials kicked off the second phase -- the "enforcement phase" -- of that plan, focused on stepping up enforcement to curb violence and drug crimes in the Kensington community.

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as new information becomes available.

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