You’d think that since David Simon‘s The Wire portrayed how instrumental police wiretaps are in taking down drug operations, the subterfuge—which can be employed after cops obtain a court order from a judge—would have worn itself out. But in the D.C. area, 29.5 kilos of cocaine authorities seized last week says it hasn’t.

The seizure was a product of a lengthy operation that started in January. That’s when court papers say FBI and Metropolitan Police Department investigators got up on William Bowman‘s cell phone under the Title III Interceptions law, which allows for wiretaps that have to do with serious criminal offenses. It’s not clear how Bowman became a target.

In any event, documents say that back then, Bowman began using his phone to chat up multiple individuals, telling them he’d be able to supply cocaine in “the near future.”

In February, according to papers, Bowman, who lives somewhere “in Southeast,” began calling around again, this time to arrange meetings “at different locations in the vicinity of East Capitol Street and Benning Road.”

Listening in on and watching Bowman for four months, authorities say they became privy to conversations between Bowman and some people he allegedly did business with, like Gezo Edwards (aka Zo), Robert Richards, and Willie Moorer. They also became privy to where they’d hidden some drugs—at a storage facility on Kenilworth Avenue in Hyattsville, Md.

Authorities mounted a camera in the facility, and on April 25, FBI agents spirited away the drugs.When, the next morning, Bowman discovered he’d been cleaned out, he went for his trusty cell phone again.

He called up Richards and Moorer and told them to get to the storage facility, say papers. They came, and Edwards “arrived a short time later.” The gathering soon found itself in cuffs.

A law enforcement source says the seized drugs are worth millions. A pistol and an AR-15 Bushmaster assault rifle were also found in the storage facility. Lawyers for the defendants didn’t immediately return calls.

It was a huge victory, says the law enforcement source, and the wiretap figured heavily into it. The source says despite shows like The Wire, dealers are still keen on using cells: “The problem is we’ve become so dependent on them” as a society at large. But he also says particularly savvy criminals know something else you can pick up by watching Simon’s TV show: “The bad guys know there are wiretaps, but they also know how difficult they are to get.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery