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I-Team: As demand for illicit drugs increases, police investigate connections to drug cartels in NEPA


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY(WBRE/WYOU) — Dangerous drug cartels are making big in-roads into the illegal drug trade here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

That’s the word today from federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The drug raids in Wilkes-Barre this week are being called the largest in city history.

Eyewitness News was told that law enforcement has always been aware that drug cartels operate in our region. But they say the raids this week here in the Diamond City confirmed their worst fears. Those cartels are active and they are dangerous.

“When this investigation began many many months ago we never thought it would lead to something this big,” explained Sam Sanguedolce, the Luzerne County District Attorney.

District Attorney Sanguedolce is talking about the raids in Wilkes-Barre this week that resulted in three arrests and the seizure of more than a million dollars worth of fentanyl and cocaine weapons and some $100,000 dollars in cash narcotics agents learned that the operation was connected to a Mexican drug cartel known as “Montes De-Oca”.

“You know we didn’t have a thorough knowledge of the group and their activity in this area as we thought we did obviously but I think there’s a local perception that the large city gangs have not moved into this area and we found that not to be true over the last few years,” stated Sanguedolce

Federal, State and local agents raided three locations in Wilkes-Barre Bases of operations for the alleged dealers.

The top federal prosecutor in Northeastern Pennsylvania says the investigation is ongoing. So he could not comment on this cartel connection but in general, says these types of operations are well organized.

“They are well organized just like any organization that distributes a product. They have distribution networks they have distribution chains they have agents they have sellers they have people who are involved in marketing it’s a very sophisticated operation,” explained Bruce Brandler, the Acting U.S. Abbreviation of Attorney Middle District of PA.

And these cartels are the main reason drug overdose deaths are at epidemic levels.

“The heroin epidemic the opioid epidemic remains at very troubling levels and these drug trafficking organizations are the cause of these deaths we are seeing throughout the nation,” said Brandler.

Stefanie Wolownik is a drug addiction counselor. She says these cartels know there is money, big money, to be made in our region.

“I mean it’s supply and demand if there is no demand there’s not going to be a supply so obviously there’s a demand,” stated Wolownik, Counselor of Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services.

Law Enforcement officials tell Eyewitness News their biggest concern is that these drug cartels are very dangerous and will do whatever it takes to sell their poison.

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