Police raid 'Ugly Squad'

Posted: October 08, 2005

They called themselves "The Ugly Squad."

They kept alligators in a basement pond and fed them chicken and pigs' ears.

And they allegedly sold several million dollars' worth of illegal drugs a month from a working-class block in the Wissinoming section of lower Northeast Philadelphia.

Late Thursday afternoon, Philadelphia police executed seven search warrants, including five at houses in the 5000 block of Homestead Street, and seized $1.3 million in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, prescription pills and codeine syrup.

The drugs were placed on display yesterday at Police Headquarters, along with an assortment of weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun, a pistol with a laser sight, a MAC 11, and a 7.62mm rifle with a bayonet.

Two alleged members of the Ugly Squad, so brazen that they sometimes sported T-shirts with their gang name, were arrested: Michael Doebley, 31, and Chris Simon, 20.

Police said they were looking for Joe Doebley and Edward Stern, who was described as one of the ringleaders. A police spokeswoman said no information was available on the relationship between Michael and Joe Doebley.

Narcotics Capt. Chris Werner said the Ugly Squad members did not flash their wealth on the outside, but inside their houses they enjoyed marble bathrooms with high-end fixtures, a whirlpool, and a stainless-steel refrigerator. They also kept pit bulls and maintained a video surveillance system.

But they apparently enjoyed some notice. Besides the T-shirts, one of suspect's cars had the gang name on the license plate.

Werner said that Stern and the Doebleys were "lifelong friends" who were very isolated, and that it took two years for investigators to crack the case with surveillance and at least one controlled purchase of cocaine.

"These guys are good," Werner said. "They're not amateurs."

Chief Inspector Keith Sadler said the drug gang kept the six alligators - some as long as six feet - as pets. The reptiles were seized by animal-control officers.

"It's almost life imitates art," Sadler said. "They see garbage in Hollywood movies, and it's glamorous to them."

Sadler said it is "all part of the status of being a drug dealer."

Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson took the occasion to note that drugs are not simply found in poor minority neighborhoods.

"It affects everybody," Johnson said.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.

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