Pubdate: Mon, 25 Nov 2002
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Jake Wagman, Inquirer Suburban Staff


It is accused of dealing en vogue dope: ecstasy, OxyContin and ketamine, 
known by the street names X, Oxy and Special K.

Police said that when officers took down the alleged South Jersey drug ring 
last week, they also found anabolic steroids - popular complements to the 
so-called club drugs - as well as marijuana and cocaine.

Based in Gloucester County, the alleged drug ring was different from others 
targeted recently in Camden and West Philadelphia, and not just because of 
its suburban location.

The arrests of more than two dozen people on narcotics-distribution charges 
indicate a trend away from traditional street drugs and toward a lucrative 
crop of youth-oriented drugs.

"It appears the clientele was primarily young, suburban and middle-class," 
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said. "Drugs cross all 
socioeconomic and geographic boundaries."

Dalton, noting that the investigation was continuing, would say little 
about how the alleged ring was structured or the quantity of drugs it is 
accused of selling.

Information he did provide, however, indicated a set-up rooted in some of 
the area's more-affluent communities.

Authorities said the leaders were Frank Marsella, 27, of Washington 
Township, and Charles Decoma, 30, a South Philadelphia resident who grew up 
in Franklin Township.

The pair have been charged with a combined 39 counts of distribution of a 
controlled substance and four counts of selling in a school zone.

Frank Marsella is a nephew and an employee of Anthony S. Marsella, a former 
state assemblyman who runs a contracting firm.

At a bail hearing Friday in Superior Court in Gloucester County, Frank 
Marsella's lawyer denied that his client was a central figure in a drug ring.

The 26 others - arrested on charges of conspiracy to sell narcotics - were 
residents of Sewell, Mullica Hill, Cherry Hill and Marlton and included 
college and former high school athletes.

Credited in the investigation were the police departments in eight 
municipalities, the New Jersey State Police Narcotics South Unit, the 
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, the Delaware River Port Authority, 
and several local SWAT teams.

All of the suspects have posted bail or are in the Gloucester County Jail 
while awaiting hearings.

The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said the evening raids on last 
Monday and Tuesday were part of a nine-month investigation in which an 
undercover police officer bought large quantities of drugs.

Law enforcement officials said this group differed sharply from urban drug 
organizations, in which leaders use guns and violence to maintain control 
of street corners where heroin and crack are sold.

The suburban drug dealers were making huge profits selling to a dance-club 
culture that uses ecstasy and ketamine for a sense of euphoria to go with 
the grooves.

"The fact that more and more young people are getting involved selling is 
natural because that's who the target is," said Terrence Farley, first 
assistant prosecutor in Ocean County. "They want to buy from someone like 

Farley, who has lectured around the country about club drugs, said that, 
typically, suburban New Jersey dealers have a distribution connection in 
Philadelphia or New York. They can buy the drug for up to $7 a pill and 
sell it for as much as $25.

Ecstasy is manufactured in Europe and smuggled into the United States 
"primarily by the Israeli Mafia," Farley said.

"This is a huge epidemic that has changed the drug scene completely," he said.
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