Drug Ring Bust Exposes Possible Hole In Air Cargo Shipment - KMSP-TV

Drug Ring Bust Exposes Possible Hole In Air Cargo Shipment

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The Frederick Brothers The Frederick Brothers
PHILADELPHIA -

It doesn't look like much, just a small garage in the middle of the 1100 block of Sigel Street in the heart of South Philadelphia. But to hear investigators tell it, this was ground zero for a major drug operation that generated $15 million in one year.

"The only way to describe this was massive," says District Attorney Risa Ferman.

When narcotics agents from Montgomery County raided this place back in May, they found 287 pounds of high grade marijuana worth over $1.5 million dollars and $450,000 in cash. It was stashed in a big commercial tool boxes.

"The volume of drugs that were being brought into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, that were being distributed on the streets was absolutely huge," reflects DA Ferman.

Investigators say it turns out this wasn't the first time drugs were stashed here right under the nose of the local mob. And believe it or not, the wiseguys didn't have a piece of this high end drug ring or a hand in it. This drug ring was lead by the Frederick Brothers, Dennis and Jeffrey.

"We're talking about an organization that in less than a year has moved $14.5 million dollars," says DA Ferman.

But the question that still puzzles investigators working this case is how did big marijuana shipments like these make their way across country from California via private air cargo and go completely undetected, not once, but more than two dozen times in just one year.

"Using these private freight companies was something that was relatively new to us," admits DA Ferman.

IN fact, investigators charge that 53-year-old Charles Sadrin in Sacramento, California shipped drugs to the Frederick Brothers' drug organization here in South Philadelphia 28 times from January 2012 to May 2013. He allegedly used 57 rigid commercial tool boxes stuffed with drugs and no one detected it or did anything to stop it.

"What we found here is that there really were no checks. These huge tool containers with hundreds of pounds of marijuana were loaded and transported across the country. They were delivered to this area and the person ultimately who we arrested would travel from California into this area to collect them, really without any questions being asked," says Ferman.

Investigators say Sadrin would pack the drugs into these tool boxes ship them via forward air cargo in Sacramento, California. They would arrive here at Forward Air's regional warehouse in Folcroft, Delaware County. Sadrin would fly cross country, following the drugs, stay at a local motel, rent a pickup truck and scoop up the tool boxes at Forward Air, then deliver them to the Frederick's in South Philly.

"The fact that people were able to move something illegal from one end of the country all the way to the other and nobody was the wiser is very troubling," says Ferman.

The Transportation Safety Administration, known to everyone as the TSA, told FOX 29 it doesn't inspect private air cargo, neither does the Drug Enforcement Administration known as the DEA. Sure, the TSA inspects cargo on commercial flights, but not for drugs. The TSA is looking for explosives or weapons that could bring an aircraft down.

"That to me looks like a hole. In this particular case it was drugs, but what's to say it's not going to be weapons or ammunition or something else that would be used in a place to harm other people," says Ferman.

It's a real problem that has to be investigated," says Ed Turzanski. "And I would suggest if it's going on here, it's going on in other places."

Ed Turzanski is a local counter terrorism expert. He was stunned to learn that 28 different shipments of 57 containers loaded with nearly 4,000 of high grade pot, were shipped undetected by a private air carrier into Philadelphia. Turzanski worries about what else could get shipped like this.

"If it's going on with illicit drugs, it may be going on with other materials that can be used precisely for the purposes that the whole thing was designed to prevent, terrorist activity of some sort," he says.

The TSA does have a program for pre-inspection of cargo shipped by private air cargo companies. It allows private carriers to have their cargo pre-screened at various private inspection centers on their own before its shipped. The TSA certifies and approves each inspection facility.

"Either no one was watching or the level of scrutiny was virtually non existent. This is a hole. There's clearly a deficiency in the freight transportation system. By allowing companies to do this on their own. To certify that its done. We really have no way of knowing there's any level of scrutiny or not," says Ferman.

"You have to start digging to find out who was it that allowed this to pass, was it incompetence or was there criminal intent," says Turzanski.

Sadrin's cargo shipments of pot were supposed to pass through a pre-screening facility in California on their way to Philadelphia. Ferman says Sacramento police are still investigating how all this dope got shipped out of California 28 different times in one year and not one load was discovered to stopped.

"How many times were they able to do it, what other things were other people able to move. I mean this is a huge problem..." says DA Ferman.

DA Risa Ferman tells us Forward Air was completely cooperative with her investigation. A company spokesman would not discuss the shipments citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

The Frederick Brothers and Charles Sadrin were recently released after their $4 million on bail was reduced. They could go on trial this fall. By the way, the marijuana sells for $1,500 a pound in California, it sells for $4,000 a pound here. The defendants could go on trial in the fall.

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