A cocaine distribution ring centered in Waldorf was broken up, with 12 individuals under arrest or sought by authorities after one of Charles County's most comprehensive drug investigations ever, officials said last week.

Federal authorities announced a nine-count indictment on Tuesday that alleged Jonathan D. Jennings, 23, of Waldorf, was a leader of the ring that distributed cocaine and its derivative, crack.

The year-long investigation that led to the federal indictment was begun by narcotics officers from the Charles County sheriff's office, authorities said.

"This is the most comprehensive and far-reaching narcotics investigation ever conducted in Charles County," Sheriff Fred Davis said. "We believe these arrests will significantly decrease the availability of illegal narcotics in Charles County and send a forceful message."

By Thursday, eight of the 12 named in the indictment had been arrested and were in the custody of U.S. marshals, authorities said.

Officers seized $25,000 in cash and 25 vehicles after conducting searches in "numerous locations," officials said.

The action "should send a message to drug traffickers in all counties in Maryland that they will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted," U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said.

According to federal prosecutors, those charged include Waldorf residents William S. Watts Jr., 23; Frances J. Brawner Jr., 19; Betty Ann Harvey, 47; James W. Estep, 34; Joseph T. Jennings, 42; George S. Estep, 49; and Francis R. Taylor, 24.

Authorities identified other Charles County residents named in the indictment as Jai King, 25, of La Plata; Randy M. Brown, 25, of Pomfret; and Bernard Cole, 21, of La Plata. Lawrence D. Jennings Jr., 27, of Upper Marlboro, also was charged, officials said.

The indictment alleged Jonathan Jennings stored supplies of cocaine in several "stash locations" in Maryland, including places where he would bury the substance. The indictment alleged the defendants regularly used pagers, telephones and identification codes to communicate.