In raids across multiple counties, the DEA on Wednesday took down a "heroin distribution machine" they say earned $250,000 a week packaging and selling the drug.
The group the feds said was extremely sophisticated and structured like a pizza delivery business worked in plain sight and operated out of the San Fernando Valley. It supplied locals from Santa Barbara to Riverside counties.
They packaged high-quality heroin and cocaine in colorful and white fluffy balls.
At one spot, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration seized drugs, $15,000 in cash and a car with a trap door for sneaking drugs. Sixteen people have been charged in the case.
"The volume was enormous," said Will Torrence, the DEA's resident agent in charge of the Ventura office. "Their dispatch and call centers received hundreds of requests every day for the delivery of heroin and cocaine."
The NBC4 I-Team got exclusive access as federal search warrants and indictments were carried out.
The accused ringleader of the operation, known as "Manny’s Delivery Business," was taken into custody.
Authorities hope the arrests permanently shut down the organization.
The monthslong investigation coincides with the rising number of addictions, overdoses and deaths nationwide from heroin and opioids. Some 175 overdose deaths a day are recorded, a number the White House cited when the president called the drug crisis a public health emergency in October.
The group maintained a fleet of about 20 vehicles, compact cars, most with hidden compartments.
They dispatched calls out of a building, complete with drivers getting paid salaries, working shifts and getting holidays off.
Behind a facade, investigators say, was the largest street-level drug operation they have seen in the Valley.
Agents continue to seek information on the whereabouts of several more individuals. Anyone with information is asked to call the Ventura DEA office at 805-383-6464.