Police arrested at least 17 persons yesterday and charged them in what Prince George's County authorities described as a $50-million-a-year cocaine distribution network stretching from New York to North Carolina.
In raids on 13 locations in Prince George's County, in Annapolis and in Winston-Salem, N.C., authorities also seized nearly $1 million in cash and assets.
Prince George's Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty said the raids came after an 18-month investigation, adding that it was unconnected to a "war on drugs" announced Thursday by County Executive Parris Glendening.
"The goal of this operation was to seize assets, money, jewelry and homes," said Major James Ross, head of the county police's Criminal Investigations Division.
"Our intention was to take the profit element away from the drug dealers. I think we were successful today in accomplishing that," he said in an afternoon news conference.
One of those arrested and charged with drug distrubution was Ralph Cook, 41, who was taken into custody at a home in Greenbelt. Among the properties seized yesterday was one of Cook's houses near Bowie, valued at $150,000. Police said they were trying to seize his other property in Seat Pleasant, a movie theater in North Carolina and apartment buildings in several states.
Cook was being held on $5 million bond.
Thirty-one warrants were issued as part of the drug sweep, and police said they would continue making arrests and expect eventually to seize property valued at $1.5 million.
Along with the county police department, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Park Police were involved in the operation.