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Federal charges for 12 Racine-area residents for roles in alleged large-scale, nationwide cocaine operation

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RACINE— Eleven Racine residents, plus three others from Kenosha, Milwaukee and the Franksville area of Caledonia, have been charged with moving and selling cocaine and crack cocaine in high volume.

According to police, no force was necessary in making the 14 arrests Wednesday.

Those charged range in age from 23 to 64 and are of various races, even though the arrests were originally reported to be connected to the Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples street gangs, whose members are primarily black.

A federal indictment, announced Wednesday afternoon by Richard Frohling, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, includes charges for the 14 people that include “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms (11 pounds) or more of cocaine, and 500 grams (1.1 pounds) or more of cocaine base in the form of ‘crack’ cocaine.”

According to the United Nations, one pound of cocaine is worth more than $54,000 on the street on average in the U.S. as of 2019, although prices can vary drastically depending on the city and quality of the drug.

Twelve of the defendants were arrested in Racine, Kenosha and Tennessee during the execution of 18 federal search warrants Wednesday morning, law enforcement agencies reported; the other two defendants were already in custody.

According to law enforcement, during the execution of the warrants, “multiple firearms and controlled substances” were recovered. It has not been shared what specific weapons and drugs were found, although the Racine Police Department did say Wednesday morning that a “large amount” of controlled substances were recovered.

Who was charged

Gerardo Lara, aka “Migo,” aka “Dineroo,” 27, of Franksville

  • Sarah A. Beckius, 27, of Kenosha
Plaze E. Anderson

Anderson

  • Plaze E. Anderson, 23, of Milwaukee
  • Jasmine J. Gonzales, 40, of Racine
  • Debra J. Urness, 42, of Racine
  • Marquan L. Washington, aka “Munch,” 30, of Racine
  • Mario M. Johnson, aka “Ro,” aka “Roegotti,” 33, of Racine
  • Ashley M. Westmoreland, 28, of Racine
  • Michael D. Hardin, aka “Mojo,” 33, of Racine
  • Terry Brumby Jr., aka “T-nice,” 32, of Racine
  • Carl Grayson, aka “Pops,” 64, of Racine
  • Brian L. Phillips, aka “B,” aka “Brittle,” 33, of Racine
  • Michael A. Wright Jr., 31, of Racine
  • Jeri L. Balderas, 31, of Racine

Releases from law enforcement did not detail who was arrested where or when, where specifically the 18 search warrants were executed, or the roles in the drug operation of each of the 14 individuals.

11-month investigation

Investigation of the drug operation began in November 2020, according to the Racine Police Department.

Racine Police Chief Maurice Robinson, sworn in as chief in May, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon: “This morning’s operation was the culmination of almost 12 months’ worth of investigative work between local, state and federal law enforcement officers to hold members of these two violent organizations accountable. The execution of arrest and search warrants was as close to flawless as any I’ve seen in my 19-year career.

“It is important to note that the subjects named in the arrest warrants were taken into custody without any force being used. I am extremely grateful for all of the officers involved that made this such a successful operation.”

The investigation was led by the Milwaukee Area Safe Streets Task Force, which involves members of the FBI, Racine Police Department, Racine County Sheriff’s Office, Mount Pleasant Police Department and Sturtevant Police Department.

“The indictment in this case and today’s arrests demonstrate the joint commitment of federal, state, and local law enforcement to combat drug trafficking activity by gang members and violent offenders and to improve the quality of life of residents throughout the district,” Frohling said in a statement.

Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes of the MASSTF added: “Utilizing joint resources creates the greatest impact in removing violent gangs, guns and drugs from our communities.”

According to the Department of Justice: “If convicted of the drug trafficking conspiracy, each defendant faces a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment with a maximum of life, a $10,000,000 fine, and between 5 years and life on supervised release.”

Balderas faces an additional charge of structuring a financial transaction to avoid a reporting requirement, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.

Prosecuting the case will be U.S. attorneys Katie Halopka-Ivery and Bridget J. Schoenborn.

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