Yesterday's indictments attributed two murders to the Lockie Daley organization, the first Jamaican posse to move here from Brooklyn in 1984, and one of the most violent in the city.
Authorities say Daley's gang, which has links with both the Shower and Spangler posses, is responsible for as many as eight murders.
"We believe we have taken down the entire (Daley)organization and put them out of business," U.S. Attorney Michael Baylson said yesterday in announcing the indictments.
Jamaican drug gangs are responsible for 53 murders in the city since 1984 and 2,000 murders nationally, authorities say.
The posses are known for their ruthless tactics, such as using baseball bats to beat teen-age drug pushers suspected of having stolen from them, and showering rivals with automatic-weapon fire.
During a highly publicized reign of murder in 1988, the posses were responsible for killing three young people, brothers Anthony and Cornell Williams, 13 and 15, and 5-year-old Marcus Yates.
On March 15, 1988, the Williams brothers and Joseph Jones, then 12, were held captive by a Jamaican gang in a North Philadelphia drug house and forced to sell drugs to pay off a debt.
Later, Anthony Williams was shot to death and his body left near the West River Drive, and his brother was found shot to death in a marshy area near Philadelphia International Airport. Joe Jones, now accused of murder in an unrelated drug shooting, escaped and later testified against those accused of the murders. Two men received life sentences in the murders.
On July 18, 1988, Marcus Yates was killed in the crossfire between rival dealers inside a store in Southwest Philadelphia. Two men received life sentences in the murder.
Those incidents, coupled with the ongoing warfare between the Jamaicans and other drug gangs, helped to galvanize neighborhood anti-drug movements.
The murders also drew intense law enforcement scrutiny, and police and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided gatehouses nightly for about four months.
"The media attention brought more attention by the police, and they (the dealers) took extra pains to avoid detection," said Lt. Herb Gibbons, head of the Police Department's Jamaican task force before it merged into the Violent Traffickers Project last year.
The Violent Traffickers Project drew together the disparate and often feuding local and federal law enforcement agencies that were investigating Jamaicans.
And soon, the district attorney's office was sending its top cases to the U.S. attorney's office to get tougher sentences in federal court. Last year, 55 drug dealers were convicted of drug and weapons offenses in federal court.
A year ago, the Jamaican posses asked their New York counterparts for more help in fighting rival drug dealers in Philadelphia, but were told to "cool it," a law enforcement source said.
Many Jamaican drug gangs closed up shop and left for Brooklyn and other cities where they operate along the East Coast, authorities say. But others remain.