MILWAUKEE -- A significant dent in Milwaukee's heroin epidemic. That's how officials describe their roundup of 16 alleged dealers Tuesday morning, June 14th. They say their work on this case goes back several months, if not longer.
Officials says this was a structured organization that fueled drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the Milwaukee area.
"There is a heroin epidemic in the city of Milwaukee and surrounding areas," said Greg Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Inside the federal courthouse, a big announcement in the war on heroin.
"Too many lives have been lost and too many families are forever scarred," said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Robert Bell.
16 people were arrested by the U.S. Marshals Tuesday, for conspiracy to distribute heroin. While another two suspects are still being sought.
The defendants charged in the indictment include:
- Edgardo Q. Rivera, 45
- Edgar Velez, 51
- Carlos David, 47
- Eddie Rivera, 34
- Justo Capeles, 45
- Jose Deanda, 34
- Omayra Rivera, 40
- Edgardo S. Rivera, 27
- Jorge Fontanez-Masso, 28
- Jose Santos-Marti, 23
- Isaac Elena-Leonardo, 25
- Ramon Elizondo, 44
- Brenda Fontanez-Masso, 43
- Carlos Velasquez, 44
- Luis Diaz, 23
- Emerito Quiles, 64
- Jason Rivera, 35
- Jaime Vega, 19
Officials say they are all members of a drug ring, lead by 45-year-old Edgardo Rivera -- a man now in federal custody.
"The Rivera Heroin Trafficking Organization profited by selling poison to our kids, family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Causing addiction and overdose deaths," said Bell.
While executing search warrants Tuesday, agents seized heroin, cocaine, 16 firearms and $150,000 cash believed to be drug proceeds.
"This was a large-scale structured organization that according to informants obtained heroin, cocaine, and marijuana from Philadelphia, Chicago, Florida, Puerto Rice and other locations," said Haanstad.
The suspects range in age from 19 to 64, and are from Milwaukee, Kenosha and Chicago.
Officials say this organization has been on their radar for a long time.
"We expect this to make a significant dent in the heroin distribution problem here in Milwaukee," said Haanstad.
If convicted these defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison -- and a minimum of ten years.