As a result of a 9-month-long joint investigation involving wiretaps on 28 telephone lines, video surveillance, and "buys" by undercover detectives, the NYPD has busted a massive heroin ring in the Fordham section of the Bronx. Known as "La Perla Organization," it dealt an estimated $40,000 a day worth of the drug at three street corners in the Bronx, and operated out of three mills in Riverdale and Pehlam Parkway. The Bronx DA says an "overwhelming" number of those arrested were members of the Latin Kings.

In shifts around the clock, workers carefully spooned the powder into glassine packets, which were sold for $10 each. Police found a half-million of the envelopes and nearly half a million dollars in cash during the bust, and the 31 arrested were charged 82 counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and varying counts of the possession and sale of heroin. Ring leaders Wilson Guerrero, 48; Antonio Carasquillo, 51; Enrique Esquillin 45; and Luis Esquillin, 47, face up to life in prison.

The bust points to the growing heroin epidemic in and around the city. Just last year, artist Dash Snow died of a heroin overdose, and Chauncey Parker, director of the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, says the purity level of what is on the streets is "alarmingly high, so people are sniffing it." The DEA is also saying that drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin are the new gateway drugs, leading mainly young, middle-class kids into heroin use. A 22-year-old Suffolk County addict said he began selling it because "all the little rich kids were doing it," and then began snorting the drug because he thought it would be easy to quit. He said, "By the time I went into detox, I was up to 60 bags [glassines] a day."

Prosecutors say the ring was even bigger than anything in the Barnes era, supplying dealers as far away as Boston with the drug. Joseph Evans of the DEA said, "The Northeast corridor has the most predominant heroin use, and 14% of all heroin seized in the U.S. is seized in New York City." Authorities expect to make more arrests.