By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

A drug pipeline from Mexico that runs through southern Chester County has been disrupted following a year-long investigation that has resulted in 16 arrests.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrests as part of Operation Tubería Rota (which translates to Operation Broken Pipeline) by federal and local officials.

“From my days as a federal prosecutor, we were aware that Mexican drug trafficking organizations run a pipeline of drugs up the East Coast, cutting through Southern Chester County,” Hogan stated in a press release.

The District Attorney explained that drug-trafficking organizations hide their drug couriers among the law-abiding Latino population in southern Chester County.

“Operation Tubería Rota sends a loud message to the Mexican DTOs -- we know where you are, we are coming after you, and we will shut down your drug pipeline in Chester County,” Hogan said.

The following defendants were arrested in Operation Tubería Rota: Daniel Ramirez, 28, of Nottingham; Miguel Luna-Rodriguez, 44, of Nottingham; Martin Romero-Cruz, 30, of Oxford; Miguel Lara-Zavala, a/k/a “Twinky”, 44, of Kennett Square; Abel Francisco Tinoco-Guitierrezz, 42, of Chadds Ford; Martin Zavala-Zavala, 36, of Coatesville; David Mora, 31, of Reading; Erick Orihuela-Solalinde, 29, of Reading; Moise Lantigua-Ayala, 29, of Reading; Fidencio Avalos, 42, of Kennett Square; Jonathan Garcia Sanchez, 25, of Wilmington, Del.; Jesus Zamora-Zamora, 40, of Wilmington, Del.; Benjamin Lara-Medina, 38, of Wilmington, Del.; Cesar Morales Castillo, 32, of Wilmington, Del.; Jose Rocha-Luna, 25, of Wilmington, Del.; and Jose Miranda Garcia, 29, of Newark, Del.

The defendants have been charged with drug delivery, conspiracy, and related offenses and are all in local or federal custody. In addition to criminal charges, a number of defendants also face deportation proceedings. Some of the defendants were charged in Chester County, some were charged in federal court in Delaware by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, depending on the defendants’ main geographic area of operation.

The Chester County District Attorney’s Office initiated this investigation and worked collaboratively with the Chester County Detectives, the Chester County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Strike Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Kennett Square Police Department, the East Whiteland Police Department, the Coatesville Police Department, the Delaware State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Reading Police Department.

“This operation was a model of law enforcement cooperation and communication,” said Hogan. “Because Chester County is such a large county, bordering four other counties and two states, we need to coordinate resources with neighboring law enforcement agencies to combat these drug trafficking organizations. We will continue to use all of our resources to keep these criminals out of Chester County.”

Law enforcement infiltrated the drug traffickers using multiple confidential sources. These sources were able to make direct purchases of cocaine. The police then used wire taps of the drug dealers’ phones to establish contacts and patterns of activity. During the investigation, law enforcement officials learned that these defendants had direct ties to Mexico and throughout the United States.