WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — Chester County officials on Tuesday announced the indictment of 49 people as part of a widespread and far-reaching drug trafficking organization.

PHOTOS: Dozens Of Alleged Drug Dealers Arrested In Chester County 

Detectives call it “Operation Crushed Ice.”

The network of drug dealers, officials said, had connections in Puerto Rico and Mexico. They used violence, according to prosecutors, to make the organization operate.

Richard Maitre, 27, of Oxford, Chester County, is the alleged mastermind of the organization. It’s alleged his drug dealing reached all levels of the community, including schools. Prosecutors say even when he was an inmate at the Chester County prison, he operated his drug distribution empire.

“So he had the audacity while he was locked up on another offense to keep running this large-scale drug trafficking organization because he didn’t want to break the business even while he had the inconvenience of being in jail,” said District Attorney Thomas Hogan.

Detectives also seized a BMW, along with about two dozen other cars they say were used to traffic drugs in and out of the area.

Hogan said of the 49 defendants, they operated a “full-scale illegal pharmacy.”

“They could get you anything in bulk, crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, prescription pill. This was a large-scale drug trafficking operation that was spreading its poison all across the region,” Hogan said. “They will hit and sell to absolutely anybody they can, which is why we have a crisis in the United States and here in southeastern Pennsylvania.”

Hogan called them an ever-mutating virus – dodging police for years.

Prosecutors say once Maitre was released from jail, detectives were able to obtain warrants to wiretap his phones and then track his movements.

Maitre has been previously convicted of drug distribution charges, spending several years in state prison.

Sources say it is expected he’ll seek a plea agreement with prosecutors.

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