Thornburgh said the Jamaican gangs were "among the largest traffickers in crack cocaine," adding that the posses "have staked out a large piece of the nation's drug and firearms trafficking" through murder, kidnapping, robberies, assaults, domestic and international gun trafficking, money laundering and fraud. Crack is a cocaine derivative that can be bought cheaply.
The Jamaican gangs have been a steadily growing - and notably violent - influence in the illegal drug trade for four years. Federal officials say they have linked the posses, which have an estimated 10,000 members nationwide, to 1,400 murders over the last 3 1/2 years. In Philadelphia, police have blamed about 30 killings since mid-1984 on Jamaican drug gangs.
Stephen E. Higgens, director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the arrests began Wednesday night and took place in Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; New York; Norfolk, Va.; Philadelphia; Raleigh, N.C.; Washington; and Martinsburg, W.Va.
The indictments and coordinated mass arrests, dubbed "Operation Rum Punch II" by federal officials, were the product of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a consortium of six federal agencies to fight drug trafficking.
Last October, Operation Rum Punch I resulted in the arrests of 155 Jamaicans in 13 states on similar charges.
This week's arrests were mostly in New York, Miami and Houston.
In Miami, for example, 34 alleged members of the "Shower Posse" were named in an indictment.
The indictment alleges that the suspects smuggled cocaine and marijuana
from the Bahamas and distributed the drugs in suitcases to such locations as New York, Los Angeles and Detroit. The indictment also allege that the suspects bought weapons in Dayton, Ohio, and tried to bribe witnesses in New York to protect the gang from investigation.
The charges in the Miami indictment include conspiracy to distribute drugs, racketeering, conspiracy to export drugs, making false statements to buy firearms and illegally transporting firearms.
There are no federal murder charges, but the racketeering charges accuse various posse members of participating in nine murders during 1984 and 1985, including six in Miami, two in Los Angeles and one in the Bronx.
In Philadelphia, the charges were basically against five individuals and a group of four who allegedly conspired to illegally buy 17 firearms from an Upper Darby pawnshop. The indictments did not include racketeering charges nor did they link the individuals with any particular Jamaican gang.
"That's one thing we're hoping will come out during the course of the investigation," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis O. Wilson, one of three federal prosecutors handling the cases in Philadelphia.
Following is a list of the individuals indicted in Philadelphia, the charges and maximum penalties they face if convicted on all charges:
Alston Brown, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; possession of firearm by a convicted felon; five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
George Stewart, 25, of the 600 block of North Conestoga Street, West Philadelphia; possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime; 30 years' imprisonment including a minimum of five without parole, fine of $1.5 million.
James Smith, 40, of the 200 block of South 49th Street, West Philadelphia; three counts of making a false statement in acquiring firearms and three counts of receipt of firearms by a convicted felon; 30 years' imprisonment and a fine of $1.5 million.
Robert Spaulding, 23, of the 6100 block of Lansdowne Avenue, West Philadelphia; possession of one pound of marijuana with intent to distribute, carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime; 10 years' imprisonment including a minimum of five without parole, fine of $500,000.
Dick Wayne Daley, 24, of the 7700 block of Lindbergh Boulevard, Eastwick; making a false statement in acquiring a firearm, receipt and possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; 15 years' imprisonment and a $750,000 fine.
Nathaniel Finkley, 32, of the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street, Powelton;
Cosman Barrett, 25, of the 6500 block of Marshall Road, Upper Darby; Mark Lewis, 20, of the 7000 block of North Broad Street, East Oak Lane; and Michael Grant, 24, of the 5200 block of West Berks Street, Wynnefield. All four were charged in a single indictment with conspiring to make false statements in acquiring 17 firearms. Finkley could receive a maximum sentence of 25 years' imprisonment and $1.25 million in fines; Barrett, Lewis and Grant, each 15 years' imprisonment and a fine of $750,000.
Wilson said that Stewart, Smith, Spaulding, Lewis and Grant had been arrested and were in custody.