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12 facing federal charges in Fairhill, Kensington drug bust; 1 suspect still on the run, Philadelphia officials say

12 facing federal charges in Philadelphia drug bust in Kensington and Fairhill neighborhoods
12 facing federal charges in Philadelphia drug bust in Kensington and Fairhill neighborhoods 02:30

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A dozen people are now facing more than 80 federal charges after authorities say they took down the so-called "Avila Drug Trafficking Organization" in Philadelphia's Fairhill and Kensington neighborhoods.

"This operation is the result of a complex 18-month investigation, focusing on the deadly combination of gun and firearms trafficking in Philadelphia," Eric DeGree, the Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia branch of the ATF, said on Thursday. 

The group is named after 30-year-old Wilfredo Avila, who authorities say headed the organization that pushed drugs and guns in parts of Fairhill and Kensington.

A team headed by the ATF and Philadelphia police had reportedly been looking into the group since February 2023. That culminated in raids on 14 locations associated with the DTO last week. Authorities say, in all, agents purchased or seized two kilograms of cocaine and 19,000 packets of fentanyl.

"Which amounts to over 50,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl," U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero said.

The group was also being looked at for its association with firearms trafficking. Throughout the process, leaders say they recovered 57 guns tied to the organization.

"Privately manufactured firearms, also known as ghost guns, assault-style rifles, stolen guns, pistols, and machine gun conversion devices, also known as switches," Romero said. 

ATF officials said those guns will now be processed to see if they are connected to any other crimes.

"Oh my God, I am so happy," said a woman who declined to be identified about the news. "I am so happy. Praise the Lord."

The woman lives down the street from where officials said the group operated and said she has seen a lot of violence in her neighborhood.

"Yeah, I'm afraid to live here! I hate it," she said. "I hate this life, I hate this area, I want to move out of here so bad."

But the woman says she and her husband have lived in the area for more than 20 years, and that moving isn't really an option for them.

Back at Thursday's press conference, officials lauded the collaborative effort between federal and local agencies that led to the takedown.

"That's the kind of work that needs to continue, that's the kind of success we need to have in this city," John Stanford, the First Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, said. 

But police leaders said their work isn't finished with the bust. Stanford said officers will continue to keep an eye on the area. 

"A big part of that also is moving forward, as you see the work we're doing in Kensington, is going to be how do we sustain that area? Because that's going to be the key of helping us move forward and transitioning that neighborhood completely," Stanford said.

"I hope they do more. Because we need these scumbags out of the streets," a neighbor said. 

Ahmed Perez, one of the 12 people facing federal charges, is still on the run.   

Authorities say of those charged in connection to the operation, they are still seeking 28-year-old Ahmed Perez. Angel Velez, 33, is awaiting transfer from another "nearby" state.

Avila faces the most counts, totaling 48, including 25 counts of manufacture, distribution, dispense, possess a controlled substance, one count of trafficking in firearms, 16 counts of unlawful shipment, transfer, receipt, or possession of a firearm by a felon and more.

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