LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – For two years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Louisville Metro Police Department were watching a group of friends and family members whom they say were dealing heroin in the Portland neighborhood.
Now, 14 people have been indicted and may go to jail for as long as 20 years.
The arrests come after a raid at a home on Bank Street in November where authorities found drugs, cash and a gun.
All 14 people are charged in criminal syndication -- engaging in organized crime -- and aggravated trafficking. Some face other charges, including trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of a firearm, tampering with evidence and fleeing and evading police.
"This isn't your typical street-corner operation," Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Andrew Beckman said.
One by one, the suspects pleaded not guilty Monday. Most told the judge they're too broke to pay an attorney.
Police said they all live within a few blocks of one another. Last month, one of their houses was raided. Heroin, meth, cash and a gun were all inside what police call their place of business.
"The federal authorities are looking at this," Beckman said. "Whether it goes federal or not, it's a question to be determined at a later date."
Their support system was in court, though they didn't say much as they left. They also didn't say much when they returned to Bank Street. Small children rode bikes and played in front of the home recently raided. They are why the prosecutor says he wants the dealers in jail.
"The message to the community should be that no matter what your role is in selling narcotics -- especially heroin, which is ruining our community -- that you will be indicted," Beckman said.
The prosecutor said this bust is big enough to disrupt the flow of heroin in Portland.
But those who live on Bank Street don't buy it. They say heroin's got such a grip on their neighborhood that the drugs will start being sold a few houses down.
The suspects' names are Brittany N. Baird, Ernest S. Cockerell, Jenny L. Cockerell, Stephanie R. Cockerell, Steven W. Cockerell, Anthony S. Kessinger, Edward Lachalmelle, Eddie D. Maddox, Steven L. Shinkle, Robert L. Smothers, Roberta L Smothers, Terry M. Tidwell, Billy J. Williams and Antonio D. Wilson.