Arlington police have arrested 32 persons and are seeking nine others following a crackdown on what authorities described as two major distribution centers for illicit drugs in the county.
A six-month undercover investigation centering on a topless restaurant within view of police headquarters on Wilson Boulevard and a 24-hour pool hall and arcade on Columbia Pike resulted in 70 felony indictments on various charges of possessing and distributing narcotics.
Among those charged are eight current or former employes of Zigfield's Restaurant at 2222 Wilson Blvd., less than a block from the County Courthouse, and three managers of Champion Billiards at 3249 Columbia Pike in the Westmont Shopping Center, who were also charged with illegal gambling. Police said they found no evidence that the owners of the firms were involved.
Drug sales at the two locations apparently were unrelated, police said, but were investigated concurrently by a single undercover officer posing as a customer. At Champion Billiards, authorities said, juveniles as young as 15 were found using cocaine and participating as intermediaries in drug transactions. Others as young as 12 were suspected by police of using and trafficking in illegal drugs.
Of the 41 persons charged as a result of the investigation, 10 are juveniles between the ages of 15 and 17.
"We've shut down two major distribution points," said vice detective Henry Churchbourne. "We're unaware that there are any others."
Authorities identified two men as being the primary sources of drugs sold at Champion Billiards. Robert Adam Lowry of Arlington and Michael Travis Dillard of Woodbridge were arrested Saturday night at the Gino's restaurant at Glebe Road and Arlington Boulevard, where an undercover officer had arranged to buy $10,000 worth of cocaine from Lowry, police said.
"He Lowry bragged about how much cocaine he could supply and he wasn't wrong," Churchbourne said. "He supplied whatever we asked for."
Prince William County police subsequently executed a search warrant at Dillard's house and seized quantities of cocaine, PCP, marijuana and hashish worth an estimated $30,000.
Lowry and Dillard, both charged with distributing cocaine, are being held in Arlington jail on $30,000 and $50,000 bond respectively.
"We keep saying year in and year out that we're going to uphold the drug laws of Arlington County," said Police Chief William Stover. "People appear not to be getting the message."
Both Zigfield's and Champion Billiards were open for business yesterday. David Wagner, a night bouncer who identified himself as a spokesman for Zigfield's, said management there had no knowledge of the alleged drug sales. "Nobody who works here got arrested," Wagner said. "They police would like to close us down. They'd like to close all the topless places down in Virginia."
According to police, the eight current or former Zigfield employes charged in the case include six dancers and two barmaids. Churchbourne said that some dancers, many of whom were drug users themselves, regularly approached customers with veiled offers of barbiturates and PCP, which law enforcement officers call "killer dust."
At Champion Billiards, a man who answered the telephone but declined to identify himself also disavowed any knowledge of drug sales, saying the owner was often absent from the premises. "Now we've rectified the mistake," he said.
Authorities said they became suspicious of activities at or near Champion Billiards after receiving complaints from managers of neighboring stores in the shopping center.
"There were folks hanging out and fights in the parking lot," said Joseph Bianchi, manager of the Dart Drug there. "It was a bad influence on the shopping center."
Police said drug use and dealing at the arcade was in the open. "There were times," Churchbourne said, "when people were just standing around waiting for a shipment to come in."
Investigators said four of the person charged face additional charges of distributing drugs to minors, an offense punishable by a minimum 10-year prison sentence under Virginia law.