MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Local and federal law enforcement credit a cooperative effort for busting a Chicago-based drug gang that made ordering a bag of heroin as simple as placing a phone call.

“This was a 24-hour-a-day, retail-sales heroin operation,” said United States Attorney Andy Luger. “The way this would work is you would call one of two different phone numbers that were known as dispatch phone numbers — almost like you were calling a cab or you were ordering food.”

The group of eight dealers called themselves “The Crew.” They would meet drug customers at five main street corners in north Minneapolis.

All members of the group were arrested last week and have been indicted on felony charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin.

In addition, at least two vehicles were seized in the bust along with undetermined amount of heroin and money.

At $40 per one-tenth-gram bag of heroin, the drug ring would attract a lot of young customers from surrounding suburbs.

“Either way you cut it, at the end of the day, every single one of these deaths and overdoses that we’re experiencing throughout our metro area is preventable,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

The growing demand for heroin is showing up in escalating overdose deaths — a rate that is doubling every couple of years in Hennepin County.

In 2010, the county reported seven heroin-related overdose deaths. That climbed to 15 in 2011 and 33 in 2013.

Trish Thacker is program director at the Salvation Army’s Hope Harbor, and sees busts like this one as saving lives.

“Heroin is always there,” Thacker said. “It’s highly addictive. Ten percent of people can become addicted to alcohol. Something like 100 percent of people can become addicted to heroin in a very short period of time.”

According to investigators, the two main ring leaders — Richard English and Milton Ingram — would make twice-monthly trips to Chicago to pick up the drugs.

The gang reportedly would sell around 5,000 individual hits of heroin each month.

Bill Hudson

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