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Heroin ring used rapper nicknames, zipper hiding spots

Robert Snell and Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — A band of alleged drug dealers passed out business cards, used celebrity nicknames and hid heroin in secret zipper compartments, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday that marked the latest crackdown of a drug epidemic across Metro Detroit.

The indictment charges seven people with conspiring to sell heroin across Metro Detroit and leaving several people seriously injured after using the drug.

Calling heroin “the scourge” of a community, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade announced the indictment Thursday at a press conference alongside investigators from several agencies, including the Detroit Police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“We are trying to dismantle heroin trafficking operations, especially those that are resulting in heroin overdose deaths,” McQuade said of the multi-juristictional investigation. “I believe that tackling it in this cooperative way, we will be successful in saving lives.”

McQuade at the press conference also gave her support to a Justice Department plan to release from incarceration thousands of low-level drug offenders, saying resources are better spent taking down violent, organized drug rings.

The indictment comes less than two months after a one-day summit involving law enforcement officials from six states who met in Detroit to fight an epidemic that has turned Michigan into a pipeline for illegal drugs and prescription medication.

In the latest case, seven men allegedly conspired to distribute heroin across Metro Detroit since 2014, according to the indictment. They were based along the Woodward corridor between McNichols and Eight Mile roads, where they handed out business cards soliciting new customers, officials said.

“But their work permeated into Oakland County and Macomb County, so it’s impacting everybody in our region,” McQuade said.

The men under indictment allegedly arranged heroin sales and transported the drug in a secret compartment near the zipper of the drug dealer’s pants, officials said.

The accused are:

Chris Coleman, 38, aka “Snoop” and “Scoop.”

Andre Little, 37, aka “Dre.”

Albert Street, 34, aka “Curly and “Curl.”

Floyd Shaw, 20, aka “Biggs” and “Ray J.”

Devon Street, 21, aka “Lil Bro,” “CJ,” “Da Da,” and “J Dirt.”

James White, 22, aka “Little Head.”

Carlos Cozart, 24, aka “Braces.”

Cozart is from Hamtramck and the other six men are Detroiters, officials said in a press release prior to Thursday’s press conference.

Five of the suspects are in custody and are expected to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon, McQuade said. Little and Shaw remain on the run.

Each suspect is charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, officials said.

Coleman and Shaw also are charged with distribution of heroin resulting in serious bodily injury. The victims survived their overdoses because they were revived by paramedics, officials said.

Little also was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig spoke briefly at the press conference, pledging that the fight against trafficking along the Woodward corridor is not finished.

“We continue to place a significant focus in this area,” he said. “This partnership sends one message, one united front: Together we are going to continue to eradicate the level of violence and drug pedaling that’s gone on in this area.”

McQuade also acknowledge the on-going fight.

“We want to do whatever we can to dismantle these (drug) pipelines,” she said.

The charges announced Thursday stem from numerous search warrants executed July 21 in Wayne and Oakland counties, officials said. Law enforcement seized “a substantial quantity of heroin” during the raids.

The investigation and prosecution are part of McQuade’s Project HOPE (Heroin and Opiod Prevention and Enforcement), an initiative aimed at combating heroin use and overdoses, officials said.

The announcement Thursday came after an Aug. 26 summit in Detroit, where McQuade and law enforcement officials from neighboring states addressed what they called a national epidemic of heroin and prescription pill abuse.

More than 60 people have died as a result of heroin and Fentanyl overdoses in Wayne County recently while the number of heroin overdoses in Oakland County doubled from 2013 to 2014, local officials say. Opioid deaths in the Midwest have increased 62 percent recently.

An addiction to prescription pills could cost users up to $200 a day, authorities say.

“We know in Michigan that we’ve seen a huge spike in prescription pill abuse and then we’ve also seen a serious resurgence in heroin as addicts turn to that as a cheaper alternative for their opioid addiction,” McQuade said in August. “So, that has resulted in some various significant problems in Michigan and we seem to exporting our problems to other states.”

The indictment and summit are part of an initiative by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program to stamp out drug trafficking by organized groups and others who move heroin and prescription pills from Michigan and Ohio into states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Among the strategies discussed in August to fight the epidemic were setting aside a day to turn in unused drugs, targeting drug cartels, sharing information and going after dealers who supply drugs that led to overdose deaths.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2028