By Dan Wing

By Dan Wing

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS/AP) — New Jersey law enforcement officials have charged 36 people in what prosecutors say was a major heroin distribution ring in Camden.

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced Friday that two top leaders, six upper-level managers, and 28 other associates, street-level managers and dealers have been charged with racketeering. The network allegedly has ties to the Netas street gang.

Authorities say the group sold up to tens of thousands of dollars in heroin per week.

Chiesa says investigators broke up the ring by targeting an area of Camden they described as a ‘hotbed of violence and daytime shootings.’

The investigation, called Operation Billboard, was lead by the Division of Criminal Justice with help from Camden law enforcement officials, the New Jersey State Police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Chiesa says it sends a strong message to other drug dealing networks in the city.

“36 people charged with first degree racketeering, and when they speak with their lawyers and realize the penalties that go along with a first degree racketeering charge, they’re going to realize exactly how serious that is. In particular if you look at some of the folks charged with first degree leader of narcotics trafficking network, that carries life plus 25-years,” Chiesa explains.

He says the work to stop drug trade in Camden won’t stop.

“We’re going to continue to focus on the violent areas of Camden and continue to bring these kinds of investigations so that we get at the core of the violence that occurs in the community by paralyzing these kinds of drug networks,” says Chiesa.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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