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State AG: $10.4M coke ring set up shop fast

Five of 17 charged in Operation Second String remain wanted, he says.

Attorney General Tom Corbett talks about ‘Operation Second String’ Wednesday. Behind him is Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta.

Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader

PLAINS TWP. – It didn’t take long for a group of alleged drug dealers to move into the Hazleton area after a previous group had been swept out, Pennsylvania’s chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.

State Attorney General Tom Corbett said undercover narcotics agents and Hazleton police broke up a $10.4 million cocaine trafficking ring that had been operating in the city for nearly two years.

“In September 2007, we took down one of the largest cocaine trafficking rings in Hazleton as part of Operation Boomerang,” Corbett said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Plains Township. “Less than two years later, we are here again arresting a new set of drug dealers who thought they could simply step in and continue what the previous group had started.”

Corbett said 17 people were charged with various drug offenses as a result of a 10-month investigation known as Operation Second String, including one person wanted for shooting a man eight times on May 11.

Four people were charged by Hazleton police for hindering the capture of one of the alleged drug traffickers Tuesday night.

Corbett said those charged in the latest investigation had it easy, relying on customers associated with Operation Boomerang, an investigation that centered on a $31 million cocaine trafficking ring in the Hazleton area in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“They took advantage of a substantial network of customers already in place,” Corbett said. “There will always be someone, some group to move in as demand for drugs is strong.”

Five of the 17 people charged in Operation Second String remain wanted. Most were captured Tuesday into Wednesday morning, Corbett said.

Deputy State Attorney General Tim Doherty identified Ricardo “Noriega” Callender, 23, of Putnam Street, Hazleton, and Aramis “Flaco” Colon, 22, of West Chapel Street, Hazleton, as the ring leaders.

Corbett said those charged on Tuesday were peddling a kilo of cocaine and earning $100,000 a week. By comparison, Corbett said, those arrested in Operation Boomerang were earning approximately $200,000 a week for nearly three years.

Several illegal immigrants were among those arrested on Tuesday, Corbett said.

Corbett identified Junior Diaz, 22, of North Church Street, Hazleton, as “the go-to guy” for undercover narcotic agents. Diaz was the middle man who allegedly exchanged cocaine for money, Corbett said.

Diaz, who remains at large, is also wanted by Hazleton police for allegedly shooting Alex Rivera, 23, of Mahanoy City, eight times at Diamond Avenue and Carson Street around 2 a.m. May 11, according to court records.

Corbett said the shooting was over a dispute about a woman.

Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta praised the narcotics agents and police for 10 months of hard work.

Those not in custody besides Diaz are: Victor “Rolando” Peguero, 29, of North Locust Street, Hazleton; Alejando “Manso” Serrano-Hernandez, 41, of South Cedar Street, South Hazle Street and East Chestnut Street, Hazleton; Jose Alex Burgos-Garcia, 30, of Alter Street, Hazleton; and a man known as Juan Doe, according to Doherty.

Arrested and charged with various drug offenses were:

Jose Valoy, 33, East Green Street; Aramis “Flaco” Colon, 22, West Chapel Street; Ricardo “Noreiga” Callender, 23, Putnam Street; Michael Diaz, 30, South Locust Street; Cesar “Cavallo” Vazquez-Guerro, 29, North Church Street; Osvaldo “P-Teen” Jimenez Aquino, 28, West Second Street; Yashira Flores-Movet, 27, East Tamarac Street; Yendaliz Gonzalez-Valle, 26, North Church Street; Jean C. Nunez, 24, Monroe Avenue; Ramon Nivar, 21, West Maple Street; all from Hazleton; Pedro “Petie” Contes, 29, of Washington Avenue, West Hazleton, and a man known as John Doe.

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