Seventeen persons accused of being members of two Alexandria drug rings were indicted yesterday following what was called the largest and most significant drug investigation in the city in recent years.

The drug operations were described by Alexandria Police Chief Charles T. Strobel as doing a $1.2 million business annually in heroin, morphine, cocaine and marijuana.

The chief said the accused drug dealers obtained their supplies from sources in the District of Columbia and New York City and sold the drugs -- mainly herion -- on street corners and in back alleys along Alexandria's Rte. 1 corridor.

A key figure in the investigation was a veteran Arlington police officer who penetrated the alleged drug trafficking operations after Alexandria police were unable to do so because they were known to the people under investigation.

The Arlington officer, Reginald Tillery, is still working under an assumed name in an undercover capacity as the investigation continues, Strobel said.

Tillery regularly purchased heroin in small plastic envelopes from major wholesalers and from individual salesmen, according to Strobel, other law enforcement officials and papers filed in the Alexandria Circuit Court.

The bags, which usually sold for $25 apiece, were called "boys," and a bag of cocaine was referred to as a "girl," according to officials.

Prosecutors linked the use of heroin and other drugs to the rapid escalation of burglaries and larcenies, which have increased more than 20 percent each in the city this year.

Property stolen in those crimes are often sold illegally to provide money for drug purchases, according to law enforcement officials. None of those persons indicted yesterday was charged with any thefts.

The open of drugs on street corners along the city's Rte. 1 corridor, bounded by Wythe and Cameron streets, has been criticized frequently by homeowners in the area. One resident said recently, "You can pull up at almost any corner and someone will lean in your window of your car and try to sell you something."

One prosecutor described the alleged drug rings as informal and "free-floating" and said that drug salesmen would move from one ring to another as the supply of illegal drugs increased or decreased.

Strobel yesterday identified four of the 17 suspects indicted by a Circuit Court grand jury as the alleged ring-leaders of the operation. The are: Albert Thomas (Skunk) Pearson, 38, of 821 Wythe St.; Jerry Curtis Williams, 36, of 217 Buchanan St.; Melvin J. (Monkey Man) Carroll, 27, of 1219 Gibbon St.; and George D. (Pope) Hollins, 35 of 1219 Gibbon St

Pearson was charged with three counts of selling heroin, one count of selling cocaine, and one of conspiracy to distribute heroin. Williams was charged with one count of selling heroin, and one of conspiracy to distribute heroin.

Carroll was charged with three counts of selling heroin, Hollins with three counts of selling heroin and one of conspiracy.

The maximum penalty on conviction of selling or distributing the drugs is 40 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Others charged in the indictments with at least one count of selling heroine were Horace Anthony Williams 27, and Mack Henry (Butch) Grimes, 30, both of 217 Buchanan St.; George C. (Bubba) Ware, 25, of 1225 Wythe St.; Freddie Lee (Good Times) McCoy, 31, 162 Williams St.; Herman R. Jackson, 31 of 161 Yale Dr.; Walter Lee Goolsby, 30 of 180 Ellsworth St.; Gregory Lee (Grapes) Miles, 29, of 1125 Colonial Ave., and Kenneth Kyer, 30, of 1714 W. Abingdon Dr.

Five people were listed only as "John Does" in the indictments.

Arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.