One of the biggest suppliers of cocaine and heroin in North Philadelphia and Camden has been arrested, authorities said Thursday.
Fourteen others also have been charged in a sting led by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, along with the Camden County Police Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia.
They named the alleged leader of the ring as Fernando Diaz-Rivera, 33.
Nicknamed "Gordo," Diaz-Rivera lives in Salem City, N.J., but also has a home in Salinas, Puerto Rico, from where he operated the ring in recent months, authorities said. It sold up to 30 kilos (up to 66 pounds) of heroin and cocaine a month in Camden and North Philadelphia, using a network of distributors, suppliers, and drug transporters, investigators said.
Authorities said they seized more than six kilos of heroin and nine kilos of cocaine, with a potential street value of $2 million, during the investigation.
Diaz-Rivera is already being held on a weapons charge in Puerto Rico and remained there Thursday, authorities said. He is charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network.
Authorities said they have monitored him for several years.
"He's been on our radar, but he's been off the grid," Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson said.
He said the bust will help mitigate drug problems in Camden, which has had 1,100 drug overdoses since January 2015. At least 70 of them have been fatal, he said.
Philadelphia had 702 fatal overdoses in 2015 involving drugs or alcohol, officials said.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said that Diaz-Rivera was one of the top drug suppliers in Camden and North Philadelphia, "if not the top supplier," and that the sting would stop thousands of heroin doses from reaching the public.
"Long-term investigations of these types have real results," Porrino said. Diaz-Rivera's ring has ties to Mexican drug cartels, Porrino said, though he declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
Porrino said he does not believe there will be a battle for control of drug sales on Camden and North Philadelphia streets now that Diaz-Rivera's ring is gone.
"I'm not sure that there's going to be an outward visible struggle for power," he said, though he acknowledged he is not certain. He said that authorities will take action if any violence ensues, and that "a close eye is on the activity that is happening as we speak."
The other suspects in Diaz-Rivera's ring face racketeering or narcotics charges. Three are behind bars in Pennsylvania, New York City, and Puerto Rico.
Two are still fugitives, including Diaz-Rivera's girlfriend, Karina Elice Olmeda-Burgos, 21, of Salem City. Authorities said she handled some of the proceeds from the drug sales.
Angel Rosa-Ramos, 24, of Camden, who authorities said helped sell the drugs, also remained on the loose Thursday.
The rest of the suspects, mostly from Camden, were held at the Camden County Jail on bails of $250,000 to $400,000.