A state grand jury has indicted a Northeast Philadelphia resident and 19 Bucks County residents as part of an investigation into a multimillion-dollar methamphetamine trafficking ring with links to Mexico and distribution points throughout eastern Pennsylvania.
Attorney General Linda Kelly identified the investigation as Operation Blowout during a Nov. 28 news conference and claimed that participants in the drug network sold “crystal meth” worth more than $3.5 million from 2007 to 2011.
Kelly named 27 defendants, including Francis Gulich, 62, of 1939 Grant Ave. in Bustleton, who allegedly supplied meth routinely in pound and multiple-ounce quantities to at least 13 co-defendants from a variety of Bucks communities.
Gulich also was a middleman, relying on his own supplier, 72-year-old Sim Bradley of the 7400 block of Walnut Lane in West Oak Lane, said investigators, who did not disclose Bradley’s own source of the synthetic stimulant drug.
Ultimately, however, the meth originated in Mexico, authorities believe. Specifically, bulk quantities were smuggled across the U.S. border into McAllen, Texas, then shipped to the Reading area, where Raul Cosme, 38, allegedly took the deliveries. Cosme resided in Milford, Del., authorities said.
Cosme allegedly sold the drugs to Robert H. Snyder, 53, of Pottstown, who resold them to two men from Tioga County, Pa., and another from Berks County.
One of the Tioga men, Wesley B. White, 53, allegedly used a network of dealers in Bucks County to distribute the drugs. They included Joseph M. Ragnoli, 44, of Wycombe; John D. Taylor, 53, of Churchville; Dean Bowers, 46, of Doylestown; Scott A. Hopkinson Sr., 42, of Levittown; and Marlene A. Albrecht, 46, of Dublin.
White also was a primary link between the Cosme/Snyder branch of the organization and the Bradley/Gulich branch, in that White allegedly bought meth from one of Gulich’s customers, John S. Hodgson, 62, of Levittown.
In addition to Hodgson, Gulich allegedly dealt meth to Mark W. Kasper, 39, and his wife, Barbara Kasper, 39, both of Levittown; along with Philip M. Tomasella, 40, of Levittown; Alexander Shepelenko, 66, of Morrisville; Joseph C. Bogner, 47, of Bristol; and James Howard Simmers Sr., age unknown, of Levittown.
Hodgson allegedly dealt to his brother, Joseph R. Hodgson, 65, of Yardley; along with John McDonald, 61, of Morrisville; Sherwood W. White, 63, of Levittown; Nancy M. Diaz, 53, of Levittown; Tina Marie Wagner-Erb, 51, of Bensalem; and Elizabeth J. Naylon, 46, of Ivyland.
Pennsylvania State Police, Bucks County detectives, Philadelphia police and numerous other law enforcement agencies contributed to Operation Blowout, during which they executed almost 30 search warrants, seizing about four pounds of meth, one partly dismantled meth lab, about 100 firearms, $110,000 in cash and 16 vehicles.
They also seized drug-packaging materials and paraphernalia as well as alleged drug-transaction records. Authorities made use of live surveillance, wiretaps and more than 30 undercover drug purchases to build their case.
All defendants excluding Bogner, Barbara Kasper, Schepelenko and Tomasella were charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization.
Ragnoli was charged with 21 counts of delivering a controlled substance, while Snyder, Wesley White, Cosme, John Hodgson, Gulich, and Bradley were charged with 20 counts each.
Other criminal charges filed in the case include conspiracy, unlawful use of a communications facility, unlawful possession of a firearm, dealing in unlawful proceeds and possessing a controlled substance.
Authorities did not announce court dates for the defendants or their individual bail statuses.