Raid said to wreck Camden drug network

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announces the termination of a violent narcotics distribution network. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announces the termination of a violent narcotics distribution network. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
Posted: November 16, 2013

CAMDEN Authorities said Thursday that they had dismantled a major narcotics network, with "ties to Mexican cartels," that dealt millions of dollars in heroin and cocaine on Camden street corners for several years.

Forty-seven people, mostly from Camden, were charged with first-degree racketeering and related offenses over the last week or so, and most were arrested in a predawn raid Thursday, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced at the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

Fourteen suspects remain at large, including Edward Urbina, 34, of Camden, who is said to have led the network with his brothers, Omar, 39, of Philadelphia, and Edwin, 34, of Pennsauken, who were arrested on Nov. 8.

Hoffman said the network was violent and massive, with "caseworkers" who oversaw the day-to-day operations of "trappers," or dealers. Associates also "rented" corners from the Urbinas, who provided protection for dealers and used violence to fend off competition.

"The Urbina family and its associates have kept their criminal stranglehold on this northernmost section of Camden for far too long, and today we have released their poisonous vise grip on North Camden," Hoffman told reporters.

Those in custody remain in the Camden County Jail. Authorities said bail was set for Omar and Edwin Urbina at $1 million each. Charges also include leading a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree crime with a 25-years-to-life sentence.

The network operated in about a six-square-block area around Fourth and York Streets, authorities said. The operation has existed for some time in North Camden, but officials did not offer additional details.

Hoffman declined to name the cartels connected to the ring or say how the drugs were transported to Camden. He said other drug networks have had ties to Mexican cartels. Three alleged suppliers - Rigo Bello, 39; Carlos Gonzalez, 35; and Danny Borges, 36, all of Camden - are among the fugitives, authorities said.

The nine-month investigation, dubbed Operation North Pole, included the Division of Criminal Justice's Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau; Camden County Police's Metro Division; the Camden County Prosecutor's Office; Pennsauken police; and the FBI's Cherry Hill and Philadelphia offices.

"We are doing ... everything we can to get to the root of the problem. We're not nipping at the bud, we're not just trying to deal with people on street corners," Hoffman said.

He estimated that the operation dealt with close to $50,000 a day in drugs and "hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, probably approaching a million." Some customers came from across South Jersey and the Philadelphia area to Camden, a hub for the heroin trade, he said.

Authorities said they recovered more than $218,000 in cash, six guns, and five ounces of cocaine. In addition, 10 cars and a "party bus" were recovered. The bus was used to deliver drugs to dealers, he said.

Hoffman said the bust was one of the largest in the last five years.

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