Federal prosecutors today charged 20 people and moved to seize three homes and a vacant lot in Dorchester they allege have been used to process and sell cocaine by a family-based drug ring which has operated in the neighborhood since the 1990s.
In court papers filed in US District Court today, prosecutors identified the alleged kingpin as Michael T. Williams, who they allege has been purchasing kilos of powder cocaine and then processing it to be sold as highly addictive crack cocaine. They describe the operation as a "financially successful, family-run'' drug ring.
Williams was targeted by a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement officials when an unidentified person appeared at the Boston office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, allegedly with information about Williams, in July 2009.
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz TODAY commended the cooperating witness "for having the courage and ability to come forward and help us to where we are today.'' She encouraged others to follow in the the witness's footsteps.
"We need you to help clean up the streets,'' Ortiz said at an afternoon press conference.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said police were aware of Williams' organization and made "numerous runs'' at the organization over the years, but had difficulty infiltrating it because it was a family-run business.
He said the organization became a top target of police and federal authorities after members were suspected in a number of shootings, and some homicides in the winter and spring of 2009.
Federal and local investigators teamed up, tapping the telephones of Williams and his associates, monitoring their computers, and following them for over a year.
"Mr. Williams ran a criminal organization for 20 years in this city and his major mistake was resorting to violence last year," Davis said. "We want that word to go out to every criminal organization in this city. If you pick up a gun, we will be coming to see you.''
Authorities said 20 people have been charged with conspiracy to deal in cocaine. Williams was arrested today and is being held in custody. Investigators also seized $200,000 in cash, five kilos of cocaine, 14 vehicles and at least three bank accounts.
Authorities allege in the civil forfeiture request that Williams has used adjacent property on Greenwood Street at 132, 136 and 138 Greenwood St. as the hub of his drug operation. They also allege that an associate of Williams used a home at 8 Peacevale Road for the same purposes, and are also moving to seize that property.
A neighbor on Greenwood Street who declined to give her name because she feared for her safety said tonight that while she never saw any drug activity at Williams' homes, she always wondered why so many expensive cars were parked out front.
"I'm not stupid, I know something wasn't right," she said.
The woman said she has never spoken to Williams or any of the other occupants of his homes.
She said Williams is known as "Big Mike" and is "kind of thick."
She said she has never heard talk on the street of his alleged drug involvement, and that she was alarmed by the arrest. "It is scary," she said.
According to a federal affidavit, the break in the investigation of Williams took place last summer
A walk-in cooperating witness approached DEA agents about an entrenched, large-scale financially successful, family-run cocaine and cocaine base business, Weymouth Police Det. John Perchard wrote in the affidavit filed in US District Court today.
Perchard, who is part of a multi-agency task force, also wrote that the cooperating witness identified Michael Williams as the head of its drug trafficking organization.
According to an affidavit filed today in US District Court by federal prosecutors, Williams allegedly processed the powder cocaine inside the complex and also made cocaine sales out of the properties to other alleged drug dealers.
A relative who allegedly worked with Williams was identified today as Donald Ducky Williams, who is also facing federal drug trafficking charges.
While Michael Williams owned the Greenwood Street properties, Williams lived in another building he owns, on Coffey Street in Dorchester, according to federal prosecutors.
While alleging he has been a successful drug dealer, officials said in court papers that Williams has also been the victim of a crime last December someone allegedly stole a half of kilo of cocaine out of his pickup truck parked on Greenwood Street.
In a series of telephone conversations intercepted by federal authorities, Williams and a cousin, identified in the affidavit as Ronjae Williams, discussed the theft and the fact that Ronjae Williams had been charged with the armed home invasion of Michael Williams girlfriend
Michael Williams told Ronjae that he is not going to shoot it out with him, according to the affidavit, and he has not put any money on his head.
It was not clear from the affidavit if Michael Williams ever recovered his allegedly stolen cocaine or whether he punished anyone for robbing from him.
(John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.)