PITTSBURGH - Forty-four people were accused of participating in a Pittsburgh-area heroin ring in which investigators say some members brazenly sold drugs while wearing T-shirts with the slogan, "Bricks R Us."
The group was supplied out of Newark, New Jersey, and sold drugs in Pittsburgh and several of its south and east suburbs, authorities said in announcing the charges Thursday. Many of the deals took place in crime-ridden areas, investigators said, but a large number of the them occurred openly in Monroeville, a middle-class community about 15 miles east of the city known for a major mall and a shopping and restaurant district known as the Miracle Mile.
"They were recognizable through their slogan which they arrogantly displayed on their T-shirts," U.S. Attorney David Hickton said. "It read, '100 bricks at a time.'"
Many of the alleged drug deals went down in the "open, in brazen fashion, with people wearing T-shirts advertising what they were doing," Hickton said. "It is certainly unusual that this group was so open about conducting many of these transactions in a commercial district."
Hickton said the drug ring used minors as couriers. Three of the suspects were charged specifically with employing a person under 18 years of age in a drug operation.
Authorities declined to describe the gang in detail but chose to indict them in six distinct groups broken down by the geographic areas where they allegedly operated. Still, Hickton said all the suspects are considered participants in the overall "Bricks R Us" or "B-R-U" gang targeted by the FBI's Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Gang Task Force. In drug parlance, a brick is a group of 10 individual doses of heroin.
More than 200 law enforcement officials from more than 15 municipal police departments, the county sheriff's office and federal marshals were working to round up the suspects.
By the end of the news conference, FBI Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge Patrick Fallon said 12 suspects remained at large. Four of those charged Thursday were already behind bars for other reasons, and 28 of the 40 remaining suspects had been arrested without incident.
Only one suspect, Isaiah Cross, 24, was from Newark, but Hickton declined to specify his alleged role. He was one of the incarcerated suspects, but Hickton wouldn't say where he's jailed nor why.
All the suspects were charged, at least, with conspiring to distribute more than a kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of heroin. That charge carries a mandatory minimum 10 year prison sentence, with a possible maximum of life.