Five arrested in big LSD bust on 4800 block of Florence

Posted on 01 February 2012

From left: Wesley Crawford, Joshua Dassay and Raphael Zappala. (Image from ABC6)


Five people were arrested yesterday in connection with an LSD distribution operation run out of a house on the 4800 block of Florence Street.

Those arrested include 31-year-old Joshua Dassay, who lives in the home, Wesley Crawford, 34, of Ardmore, and 33-year-old Raphael Zappala, who lives on 50th Street.

Police say they found about 9,500 hits of acid and $10,000 in cash at the Florence Street residence. The District Attorney’s office, which called the operation a “million dollar drug ring,” says the LSD ring was distributing on the Drexel University campus and an investigation began when a Drexel University student, who was arrested on unrelated drug and weapons charges in Montgomery County on Jan. 18, tipped off police to the ring. The student allowed detectives to record drug transactions over the telephone. Those conversations led to the arrest of another Drexel University student, who was allegedly a lower level supplier. That student also cooperated with police. Neither students’ names have been released.

“It is sad that this was taking place on a campus of higher learning, but I hope that the actions of a few do not tarnish the image of educational excellence that we associate with Drexel University,” said District Attorney Seth Williams.

The DA’s Office said the alleged dealers were making between $5,000 and $15,000 a week selling the LSD for $10 to $30 a hit.

Dassay, Crawford and Zappala both face felony possession charges. Charges also include “criminal use of a communication facility,” also a felony, for allegedly using a telephone for drug transactions, and endangering the life of a child. An infant was found inside the Florence Street home at the time of the raid. The DA’s Office said Dassay was wanted for crimes in nine other states.

Crawford is being held on $500,000 bail. Zappala’s bail is $250,000. Bail information was not available for Dassay.


44 Comments For This Post

  1. JL Says:

    How is this a million dollar drug ring? If we’re talking low-end prices at $5 a hit it would come to around 47,500 and on the high end ($15 a hit) that’s $142,500. And if they are selling it in bulk it would probably be on the cheaper end. I don’t know–half a million in bail just seems absurd. That guy does like pretty tripped out, tho. Sad stuff.

  2. Anthony McDonough Says:

    It was more along the lines of 30$ a hit I bet, 15,000 a week? About a million dollars every year.

  3. Renee Says:

    You know, I’m not so worried about a couple of tripped out college kids selling LSD who probably kept a low profile and didn’t bother anyone while selling their shit in my neighborhood. We should spend less money and time on that and more on programs to keep kids out of trouble and to prevent and investigate real crimes. How many murders did we have in January?

  4. Christina Says:

    Maybe the perps, if convicted, can do work-release and patrol the Baltimore corridor to ward off those 2 armed robbers that keep mugging people just waiting for the trolley. At least these 3 guys gave you a product in return for taking your money.

  5. Courtney Says:


  6. Anthony McDonough Says:

    What do you mean haha?

  7. Sean Dorn Says:

    Another article said conviction could lead to a sentence of 100 years. This just seems a wildly inappropriate sentence. How about we focus our police and prosecutorial resources of violent criminals, people who use illegal guns, etc.

  8. Zoe Says:

    Agree with all the above! No weapons found in the house? We have bigger problems to solve in our neighborhood(s).this kind if thing just helps me lean more towards de-criminilization of hallucinogens.

  9. Sherry W Says:

    I know people who live nearby, and these were just NOT “hippie kids not bothering anyone” coming for a hit. They are adult dealers 30+ years old who where pissing off the neighborhood.

  10. suzanne Says:

    they look like bottom-feeding dirtballs to me. good riddance. i’d put that case up myself and get as much time as i could.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Zappala owns his house on 50th Street near Springfield and until the arrest worked for the Coalition Against Hunger helping poor people get food stamps benefits. Doesn’t sound like someone running a million dollar drug ring to me.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Zappala is a good man. Sherry and Suzanne, please focus your negativity toward those who are killing and raping and robbing our neighbors. These men weren’t harming anybody.

  13. Renee Says:

    Yeah, I’d still rather have a couple of guys selling acid on my block than the people with guns mugging us at trolly stops. The acid guys don’t make me afraid to walk around after dark.

  14. PW Says:

    Is this a joke? They’re trumpeting these petty LSD dealers as a “Million Dollar Drug Ring”??
    With all the real crime in West Philly, you’d think they would at least be real about what they got; an easy arrest of small-time dealers.
    They ought to get a slap on the wrist, but I’m sure they’ll do hard time due to archaic mandatory minimum sentences – while seriously violent criminals will still be armed-robbing people.

  15. Kate Says:

    As someone who lives on the block, I’m glad to see Dassay arrested. He frequently harassed people living on the block, committed acts of domestic violence, mistreated his animals, and was a general all-around asshole neighbor who liked to BAG that he was wanted in 9 states. He was not very discrete with the way he aired his dirty laundry, I’m not surprised he was arrested.

  16. Ananymous Says:

    I am glad that these people are in jail. I live on a nearby block which contains an alley used as a drug hiding place for dealers who operate near 49th and Baltimore, and let me tell you, it sucks to have drug activity on your block. Seeing these people come and go freely and feeling powerless to stop them is utterly, utterly, demoralizing. Actually, it is the one thing that makes me consider moving out of the neighborhood. Drugs (and not only hard drugs) destroy lives and communities. I have seen it too often, including in my own family, and among neighbors I cared about.
    Good riddance.

  17. anon Says:

    What a waste of police time and human life. Drugs with next to zero recorded fatalities should be legal and regulated in the first place so people like these don’t end up meeting the inevitable demand and start dealing (like, in alleys). If they were serious drug dealers (caught with ANYTHING else, guns, other drugs, even marijuana) I would view the situation differently but as they only has a few sheets of lsd, I think the other two guys (I’m not sure about the guy who has been wanted in 9 states) are victims of horribly draconian drug laws.

    “Million Dollar Drug Ring” is incredibly sensationalist and inaccurate. To those wishing harm to these folks, I suppose you should reevaluate your values.

  18. Ella Says:

    Wow, I am really appalled at the comments in this thread from people who think that it was a waste of time to capture these people instead of going after “real criminals”. Even if LSD isn’t “dangerous”, I’m sure that a lot of the people buying from them were. Maybe even our muggers were among them. One thing leads to another–the end to any crime at all is a good thing. And I bet if these guys non-white everyone would be singing a different tune.

  19. Kate Says:

    I don’t care if you do drugs or sell drugs as long as you aren’t a giant asshole and disrupt life for everyone else on your block.

  20. Vanessa Says:

    If 9500 hits were found in the house, just multiply that a few times to account for the fact that if they’re not total idiots they’re moving a good portion of that every month. Not so hard to get to $1m that way. Think they could have sprung for a haircut though.

    I have plenty of sympathy for low-level addicts who deal on the side, or for kids who get sucked in before they know better. I think legalization of some stuff is perfectly fine. But I have no sympathy at all for people running a ring, making a mint off of the misfortune or immaturity or insecurity of others. This kind of an organized operation breeds the sort of violence many of the other commenters want us to be ‘more concerned with.’ If in fact these folks are guilty, they’re pushers actively growing their ‘market’ by preying on others. Stopping their enterprise _is_ “keeping kids out of trouble.”

  21. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Did you folks learn everything you know about drugs through after-school specials and Dragnet episodes?

    Look out! That mugger’s on LSD!

  22. April Says:

    @ GoldenMonkey, YES!!! Thank you! Muggers are not tripping on acid.

  23. Kate Says:

    I was feeling really proud of my neighborhood & community while reading through these comments. Everyone sounded really intelligent, thoughtful & caring about what makes up a community, what tears us apart & what is actually a crowning moment for Philadelphia.

    But then I started seeing more & more “good riddance” comments pop up & I felt the ignorance, the hate & the just pure stupidity really shine through. Folks, I have never done acid nor do I have any intention of ever doing acid. I actually do not do any drugs, but I know what tears apart a community: ignorance. Ignorance about drugs, ignorance about our justice system, ignorance about our wealth inequality and ignorance about what these things do to development of people that make them think that violently mugging & raping someone is OK, even if just for a split second in their minds.

    The violence needs to stop with us & needs to be concentrated on the issues that tear are city apart (like everyone had mentioned prior). And kids taking acid is not one of them.

    Shamed to be part of this neighborhood today.

  24. anon2 Says:

    Can’t help but laugh at the community sentiment here and on other threads.
    We beat a subway franchise (yay). Unlicensed pharmaceutical dealers got busted by cops (boo.)

    These guys kept large amounts of cash on hand, and they were absolutely targets for an armed robbery or worse, from far more sophisticated street operators. And if that were to happen, as it did on Drexel’s campus to some small time dealer’s earlier in the fall, it is an incident that couldn’t be reported to the police. I seem to remember another home invasion robbery on the 4700 block of Chester a few months ago. The apartment they operated out of was a clue that these guys were pretty unsophisticated: their front door was accessible from the street, and it wasn’t reinforced in any way. Armed robberies are a fact of the clandestine drug trade. You may disagree with the drug war, but it is what it is. You may believe that robberies are a risk for any business, and they are. But legitimate businesses can take deterrent steps: they can report crimes, employ security cameras and testify in court with credibility. Furthermore, they can deposit cash proceeds in a bank without risk of triggering suspicious cash transaction reports (drug dealers can’t do this, and so they must keep lots of cash on hand.)

    Lets be clear. Many, many people have tried and enjoyed LSD without harm, and if recent studies on depression are any indication, with some benefit. But the methods of production of LSD and the inability to know the dosage of LSD in any given dose make taking LSD inherently risky. I don’t know if that risk is worth 100 years in prison, but there’s a clear societal interest in LSD prohibition. Anyway, nobody gets the maximum penalty published in media reports.

    Also, I know there’s a big fear of armed robbery, but nothing says the police have to stop enforcing other laws because there’s a crime you’d prefer be enforced, as some comments have suggested. That doesn’t make much sense.

    In summation: If any business were to come to this community and say “I’d like to open a business, and be a target for a violent armed robbery that endangers me, a small child and my neighbors. If I am robbed, I probably won’t be able to call the police unless someone is hurt, because I really can’t explain why I have $10K in cash on hand. Also, I’m going to be selling an unlicensed product of dubious quality control. Howdy neighbors” they’d be laughed out of the community zoning committee pretty quickly. Yet that’s what these people have done.

    Just the (respectful and thoughtful) two cents of a guy who agrees with many of the commentors on this board more than the commentors would realize.

    It’s so weird to live in a community that thinks processed corporate meats are more dangerous than LSD.

  25. Sean Dorn Says:

    “Addicts”, “running a ring”. This is LSD we are talking about. Whatever else you say about it is 100% non-addictive. Are there instances of “acid casualties” but none of those people have ever once tried to break into my house and steal all the copper pipes.

  26. GoldenMonkey Says:

    I bet you feel better getting that off your chest.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Here is someone actually worth getting off the streets and he’s facing a fraction of the sentence of these guys:

  28. Vanessa Says:

    Kate: If you’re ‘ashamed of the neighborhood’ how about being ashamed that the acid house is one of the more successful businesses in the neighborhood. Not exactly a business that pays its workers a living wage, or complies with any other laws that dear readers might otherwise be up in arms about, either. But I suppose we should just sit on our hands and wait for a policy of ‘War Against Ignorance’ or something equally vague.

    The last time I lived next to a building full of dealers my building was shot at, and you better believe nobody is *really* after the drugs. It’s all about the money, and it reinforces poverty just as much as you’re average off-shore bank account.

  29. AB Says:

    I’m getting the sense that people feel as though its okay to sell acid in the neighborhood and these men, or people who are high on LSD would not commit a crime or “robbery”?? That is completely naive to believe. Crimes, such as murders and robberies are committed and many times as a result of drug use and/or addiction. Bottom line its not good for our community, but yet these acid heads are supported more then someone that wants to open up a SUBWAY franchise ?? give me a break… if it wore crack or heroin would it be wrong then?

  30. LW Says:

    Regardless of the acid angle and the electrifying hairstyles, they’re not some lovable goofy local heads/freaks sitting on the porch in tie-dyes. They were large neighborhood dealers, and large dealers often = violence at some point.

    This is because (as Vanessa points out above) it’s not about the drug culture, it’s about the money. 9,500 hits and $10k in cash would have been tempting to someone, and I am also sure that they would have defended it.

    Also – LOL Drexel for saying that the students played a minor part, then it turns out that one was wanted for drug and weapon charges in MontCo.

  31. RJ Says:

    Two words;


    That is all.

  32. JK Says:


    “if it wore crack or heroin would it be wrong then?”

    That would be a completely different case, with completely different drugs.
    Crack and heroin are highly addictive and make people desperate to buy more. This desperation to get money results in crime

    Psychedelics are not addictive. Not one bit. There are no “acid heads” robbing and stabbing people. You’re the one being ignorant and naive if you believe this.. I guess we can blame government propaganda

  33. Lisa Marie Says:

    Agree with everything anon2 said above. i do not want drug dealers in my neighborhood and for that, i will not apologize. guess that makes me an ignorant, legalistic, community-busting stick in the mud.

  34. Sean Dorn Says:

    Well footing the bill for locking these guys away for 100 year sentences for selling a 100% non-addictive drug when muggers and rapists are back out on the street in a a couple of years is probably not the best use of your and my taxes to make our neighborhood a safer place to live, no matter you cut it.

    Not sure what it is about the very vague and inclusive word “drugs” that makes certain peoples brains turn off but I’m going to make an educated guess that the social worker guy was not exactly living the lifestyle of Al Pacino in “Scarface” on Florence Ave. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have been working a day job as a social worker.

  35. anon2 Says:

  36. penny Says:

    I knew one of the dealers and his family from when he was a young child. Extremely sad for them as they are a wonderful caring family. Although LSD is certainly non-addictive and should not have the same penalties as crack or heroin, operating a high-volume drug ring in a neighborhood with families and children shows a totally self-absorbed view of the world and shocking lack of regard for the consequences of their actions. They obviously did not care about how their actions impact the quality of life for their neighborhood. The kids in my old neighborhood, including one of these guys, played outside on the sidewalk all the time. Bet he wouldn’t be dealing in the old neighborhood. He picked West Philly instead. Would you let your kids play on the street as drug deals go down? The money angle is the key. They clearly did not care what might happen so long as the money kept coming in. The lack of moral compass is shocking.

  37. sphilly Says:

    acid heads dont exist. crack and heroin dealers are a completely different class of criminal. these people are harmless stoners that at worst are gonna drop a couple hits and listen to pink floyd too loud at 4am. it says alot about the intelligence of drexel kids if they were able to charge those morons 30 a hit. the numbers the da gave are total bs as usual to inflate the street value and make it look like they did something significant when really they only made it so theres gonna be 3 less hippies out of the hundreds selling on whatever hippy tour is coming up. arrest someone thats actually dangerous and put them away for good, not someone selling a mind opening substance that the government has been scared to death of since it inspired revolution 50 years ago

  38. Tim Says:

    sphilly, you sound like an acid head.

  39. guy Says:

    you people are ridiculous and naive. you cannot begin to even try to think about orchestrating an event like robbery or any crime against anybody while on lsd. you just want to sit in a chair or in the woods and laugh. i believe there are better things to do then stare at a wall for hours, but it is not dangerous to ANYBODY! Think what you want about these guys , but such a harsh sentence is not warranted, by ANY means. putting somebody in jail for life is equivalent to killing them. a life in jail is not a life at all. they deserve another chance.

  40. Sherry Says:

    Didn’t you guys read the comments about the way they behaved? This drug house was pretty much a misery to the whole block. This isn’t about the pros and cons of LSD and tripping out in a drum circle. This is another violent dirtball getting booked, if he even used LSD or not is irrelevant.

  41. guy Says:

    violent how? and it sounds like the neighbors are half and half on how they felt about them.

  42. Anon Says:

    For anyone concluding that these guys are separate from muggers and rapists, you’re terribly wrong. I am a victim of one of them. He has done things to me and my family that are worse than you can imagine. I still deal with aftermath of this. I’m so relieved this guy is locked up.

  43. Anon Says:

    LOL @ WPL coming strong to the defense of the White criminals

  44. sickofcorruption Says:

    meanwhile on the 4600 block of walnut yesterday a woman was assaulted when she inquired if the police were going to help he the Sergeant threatened to arrest the victim.
    The assault was witnessed and the witnesses stated she was assaulted. The cop stated well you aren’t bleeding…. And proceeded to be belligerent with the woman.

Tag your photos #westphillylocal on instagram

Follow Us:


Upcoming Events