Sibling drug kingpins were two of 37 people arrested after officials busted a multi-state heroin operation with ties to both Mexico and Philadelphia.
The Laredo Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) is charged with manufacturing and importing heroin from Mexico to organizations in several U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Camden and Chicago, according to a 108-count superseding indictment.
“This indictment and the arrests this morning are a significant victory in our efforts to combat drug trafficking,” said United States Attorney David Memeger. “Because of the persistent and collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies across the country, a major supplier of heroin to the Philadelphia region is out of business.”
The alleged leaders of the Laredo DTO, 46-year-old Antonio Laredo and his brother 31-year-old Ismael Laredo, both of Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, are charged with engagement in a continuing criminal enterprise.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
The Laredo brothers smuggled approximately 1,000 kilograms of heroin from Mexico by concealing the drugs in car batteries, car bumpers, vehicle traps, and sealed fruit and vegetable cans, police said. The indictment accuses the brothers of arranging for the manufacture and production of car batteries in Mexico containing concealed compartments that held the heroin.
The brothers recruited and hired couriers in the United States to transport and deliver the heroin shipments from Mexico to affiliated distributors in Philly, Camden, Chicago, Atlanta and New York, according to the indictment. Antonio Marcel Barragan allegedly served as the Mexican-based supplier of raw opium. Investigators also say Alejandro Sotelo served as a stash house operator and distributor of the product in Chicago where he arranged trans-shipment of several kilograms of heroin to Philly, New Jersey and New York.
The organization also allegedly supplied street level heroin bagging and packing operations in Philly. Heroin in quantities ranging from 15 to 50 kilograms at a time was regularly moved between Chicago and Philadelphia, according to the indictment.
Police also say the Laredo brothers used violence and threats of violence to protect their product and proceeds and also to stop members from leaving their organization.
The indictment states members of the Laredo DTO transported heroin shipments by several means, including car and train. During one incident in 2012, a courier concealed three kilograms of heroin inside a car battery for transport from Mexico to Philadelphia while another shipment of four kilograms was concealed inside a car speaker box, police said. Another shipment of 7.6 kilograms of heroin was concealed in sealed fruit and vegetable cans in Texas, according to the indictment. The shipments were then delivered to Darbin and Gabriel Vargas of the Vargas DTO in Philadelphia, police said.
Investigators also said the Laredo brothers had several relatives and associates who set up “funnel accounts” which were used to launder at least $5 million in drug money back to Mexico.
If convicted, the Laredo brothers face a mandatory sentence of life in prison as well as tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
“Heroin is the top enforcement priority of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Field Division,” said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Tuggle. “Dismantling this extremely violent international drug trafficking organization ended the flow of hundreds of kilograms of Mexican based heroin into the Philadelphia region and is a direct result of DEA’s resolve to make our communities safer. This was a cooperative effort with local, state and federal agencies. The flow of Mexican produced heroin into southeast Pennsylvania has been significantly impacted.”