Almost one months to the day, federal agents busted up a crack cocaine ring that stretched from Hialeah to the sprawling community of Southwest Ranches in Broward.
DEA agents arrested three suspected members of the drug gang – identified as Maria Morales, her son Fernando Morales and Vicente Pezzotti – according to documents filed in Miami federal court.
Authorities found six other people at the two addresses, but it is unclear what happened to them.
The case began in March when an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration claimed to have information about a “possible crack cocaine supplier” in Hialeah.
Authorities target crack dealers because the drug is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and sells at low prices.
The Hialeah ring allegedly paid one of its members $1 for every crack cocaine “rock” he sold.
In April, the informant introduced an undercover officer to Fernando Morales and his mother, María, at a Hialeah apartment.
The undercover officer pretended to be a drug dealer and began buying crack cocaine from María Morales, paying $60 in the initial transaction, according to a criminal complaint.
Several more transactions took place. During one encounter, María Morales told the agent she and her son also could sell prescription drugs, including oxycodone.
“During these conversations, M. Morales referred to her son as a co-conspirator who could obtain a variety [of] narcotics that the [undercover officer] could purchase from them,” according to the complaint filed in court by a DEA special agent.
On July 10, agents raided the Hialeah address – a fourth floor apartment in a multi-story apartment buildings near West 56th Street and 18th Avenue – where they found 42 baggies of crack cocaine, six baggies of powdered cocaine, eight ounces of marijuana, 50 pounds of ammunition as well as baking powder which is commonly used to cook crack cocaine, the complaint said.
A DEA spokesperson said the Morales crack cocaine distribution ring “basically took over a vacant apartment and ran a crack den.”
“Their criminal activities endangered the families and children that lived there,” said Mia Ro, a DEA spokeswoman in Miami.
The door was open at the Hialeah apartment recently, when visitors stopped by. Inside, furniture, papers and pieces of clothing were strewn across the floor, but no one was there. A worker at the complex said no one lived there anymore.
DEA raided an address in Southwest Ranches at the same time.
“The residents at Southwest Ranches should feel more safe with Ms. Morales and her crack cocaine trafficking organization out of their neighborhood,” the DEA’s Ro said.
Fernando Morales and his mother have pleaded not guilty, as did Pezzotti.
Pezzotti’s attorney declined to comment, and the attorneys for Fernando Morales and his mother could not be reached for comment.
A trial date has been set for late September.