Two York City men were using a grocery and deli storefront as the base of operations for what police chief Wes Kahley called a "major" drug operation, selling about $1,000 in heroin and cocaine out of the bodega per day, police say.
City police and federal drug agents on Tuesday executed a search warrant at 901 W. Princess St., the first floor of which is Miguel's Deli and Grocery.
Inside the building, police arrested two men believed to be the sole figures in an operation from which police seized more than $100,000 in raw heroin, 412 bags of heroin with a street value of $8,240, cocaine valued at $5,300, 63 steroid pills, $30,569 in cash and three firearms.
Store owner Miguel Garcia, 38, who lives in the building, was charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine and heroin and possession of steroids, the latter of which an undercover officer said were for Garcia's personal use.
His partner, Sisdey Paz, 36, of 858 E. Poplar St., was charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana.
The men were an independent operation, selling the drugs themselves, the chief said. They didn't have a network of street-level dealers, nor were they connected to any larger organization or gang.
Because of the quantity of heroin seized, the men will face federal prosecution in a court outside York County, Kahley said. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives assisted in the bust.
Kahley said he's pushing for federal prosecution of locally arrested kingpins because those prosecuted at the higher level are often off the street longer.
The battle: Kahley said taking down the operation was a major score in an escalating fight to stem the heroin trade, which has been growing in York County and nationwide.
York County Coroner Pam Gay said there have been 20 heroin-related deaths so far this year, compared to 19 for all of 2013.
"It used to be that prescription drugs were our main problem," she said.
The raw heroin seized was enough to make more than 5,000 individual bags of heroin with a street value of $10 to $20 each, Kahley said.
"I'd like to think that we made a tremendous dent," the chief said, but he lamented the amount of drugs he "realistically" surmises are still on the street.
Heroin use is found across the county and spans socioeconomic status, with many of the users being "good, hard-working people" who find themselves in a battle with addiction, he said.
The police can't "arrest our way out of" the problem, as drug dealers will continue to sell if there's money in it, Kahley said. The problem will be solved by addressing the addictions that drive the illegal drug trade, he said.
Surveying a conference table loaded with rolls of cash, drugs, paraphernalia, and firearms, Mayor Kim Bracey said it was a "sad day" to see the manifestation of the illegal drug trade. But she said it was also a good day because city police are "raiding and ridding" York of drug operations.
What's next: Kahley said police will run ballistics tests on the three guns taken from the building to determine whether they were used in any shootings.
It was unknown Wednesday whether the guns were stolen or were legally bought and registered, he said.
He said the drugs seized from the grocery store will be destroyed after the federal prosecution is complete, and the U.S. government will take the cash.
Miguel's was a "legitimate" store with employees, and it remained open in the wake of the owner's arrest despite failure to pay mercantile tax, an undercover officer said. While police say the business is called Miguel's Deli and Grocery, the name on the sign of the store identifies it as "Garcia Deli Grocery."
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