PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Police say members of an alleged marijuana distribution ring uncovered Tuesday in Southwest Philadelphia used two pre-teen school kids to try to get rid of the evidence from a home as narcotics officers were closing in.
Police say it started early Tuesday morning as a traffic stop along Island Avenue, and the seizure of 13 pounds of marijuana and $5,000 in cash.
It ended Tuesday afternoon, investigators say, with two children — boys aged 9 and 10 — being stopped outside a home on South 56th Street in Southwest Philadelphia with even more pot in their school backpacks.
Philadelphia police chief inspector Scott Small (right) says the mother of one of the youngsters, not knowing the home was under surveillance, tried to get the stash out of the house without attracting attention.
“The backpacks were on each of the children’s backs, and inside of each backpack was 3½ pounds of marijuana,” Small said.
Small says the boys’ father and a friend, along with the mother of the 10-year-old, her 19-year-old daughter, and a woman who was a part-time school police officer were taken into custody and face a host of narcotics charges.
He says the ring apparently got the marijuana — with a street value of $90,000 — from out of state and put it out on the street to other dealers.
Also seized were $10,000 in cash and a loaded, semi-automatic handgun.
Those arrested and facing narcotics and related charges are:
— Rodney Saunders, 39, of San Antonio, Texas, father of the 9 and 10-year-old boys.
— Sonya Saunders, 39, of the 1300 block of South 56th Street, who is Rodney Saunders’ wife and mother of the 10-year-old boy.
— Neiya Rawlerson, 19, of the 1300 block of South 56th Street, who is Sonya Saunders’ adult daughter.
— Somer Pugh, 33, of the 5400 block of Angora Terrace, Philadelphia, who is Sonya Saunders’ friend and a part-time school police officer.
— Christopher Lewis, 30, of the 400 block of Van Kirk Street, Philadelphia, who is a friend of Rodney Saunders.
Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060.