This afternoon the Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office announced that one of largest Fentanyl trafficking organizations in Montgomery County was dismantled following a wiretap investigation that led to five major drug traffickers arrested and 20 others charged.
Steele’s office and other local, state and federal law enforcement officials announced the dismantling of a significant drug trafficking organization that was distributing fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana in Montgomery, Berks and Lehigh counties. In addition, nearly 200 grams of fentanyl—an estimated 6,600 doses uncut—was seized from a hidden compartment in a Honda Odyssey at the time of their arrests as well as other drugs, firearms and cash.
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid, estimated to be 50 times more powerful than pure, pharmacy-grade heroin. Overall, drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl-type drugs in the United States rose from about 3,000 in 2010 to more than 19,400 in 2016, according to Journal of American Medical Association. The greatest risk is is for people who use other opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers. It only takes a tiny amount of the drug to cause a deadly reaction.
Five main drug traffickers were arrested: David Cooper, 43, of Muhlenberg Township, Pa.; Miguel “Migz” Figueroa Jr., 34, of Reading; Aaron “Ace” Ramseure, 31, of Pottstown; Christopher Saunders, 25, of Pottstown, and Jerome Tucker, 63, of Pottstown. Each defendant was charged with multiple felonies related to drug trafficking, operating a corrupt organization and possessing firearms. Twenty other individuals are also being charged with various drug trafficking and possession charges.
“These men were dealing in death. They were delivering the poison that has fueled the addictions and overdoses that have affected so many people in Montgomery County and the surrounding region,” said Steele. “By taking these major drug traffickers off the street, as well as locking up their 10 sub-dealers and their lower-level dealers, we have severed an artery in the region’s drug pipeline.”
These arrests were the result of a multi-agency investigation involving:
• Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Violent Crime Unit and Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET)
• Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation (BNI)
• FBI Bucks and Montgomery County Safe Streets Task Force
• Pottstown Borough Police Department
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• Pennsylvania State Police (PSP)
• Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
• Berks County District Attorney’s Narcotics Enforcement Team
• Lehigh County Detective Bureau
• Reading City Police Department
• Allentown Police Department
• Muhlenberg Township Police Department
• Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA.
“These defendants were arrested with nearly 200 grams of fentanyl—which is 6,600 doses on the street. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and far more deadly than heroin,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “People are dying across our Commonwealth because of fentanyl. I’m proud to partner with District Attorney Kevin Steele and our other law enforcement partners to get this poison out of our communities and put those who sell it behind bars.”
Dubbed “Operation Poison Control,” the investigation involved the use of electronic surveillance, visual surveillance, fixed surveillance, search warrants, court orders, controlled drug buys, nine confidential informants (CIs), and tips from three concerned citizens. As law enforcement teams monitored multiple cell phones from May 18, 2018 to June 1, 2018, it became clear that the target of the investigation—David Cooper—was expecting a large delivery of fentanyl from his dealer, Miguel Figueroa, which triggered law enforcement to move in and make the multiple arrests.
“As we were intercepting Cooper’s cell phone conversations, he discussed his criminal drug trafficking business. Through these conversations, it was learned Cooper was preparing his sub-dealers for a pending fentanyl delivery. In turn, these sub-dealers were ready to distribute the fentanyl to their customer base. On June 1, 2018, we further learned that Figueroa, who was Cooper’s supplier, was meeting Cooper at his residence to deliver the fentanyl,” said Steele. “We knew we couldn’t let that significant amount of deadly poison go out on the street, so we moved quickly to set up law enforcement teams to arrest the defendants and serve 15 search warrants on their homes and vehicles.”
On June 1, while Cooper and Figueroa were meeting in Cooper’s driveway, law enforcement moved in to take Figueroa and Cooper into custody. Cooper detected law enforcement’s actions, abandoned his infant son and fled into the nearby woods. Law enforcement took Cooper into custody approximately two hours later without incident.
The fentanyl was concealed in an aftermarket compartment in the Honda Odyssey and was not visible to law enforcement. However, law enforcement had overheard Cooper and Figueroa’s conversations that the fentanyl was hidden within Figueroa’s vehicle. A Pennsylvania State Police Trooper assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Drug Law Enforcements Shield Unit, who is an expert in aftermarket electronically hidden compartments, was brought in to evaluate the Odyssey. He was able to locate the compartment and access it by activating the concealment mechanism, revealing the 198.6 grams of fentanyl and the illegally possessed loaded handgun.
Other executed search warrants yielded varying amounts of fentanyl, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and some pills, all of which are still undergoing testing and weighing at National Medical Services laboratory. Seven handguns, one with an obliterated serial number, were also seized as well as drug cutting agents, drug-packaging materials and more than $34,000 in cash.
The five main defendants were charged with Corrupt Organizations (F1), Possession with Intent to Deliver Controlled Substances (F), Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities (F1), Conspiracy, and related charges. Cooper, Figueroa and Saunders were also charged with Person Not to Possess a Firearm (F2). Additionally, Cooper was charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children (F3), Flight to Avoid Apprehension (F3), Resisting Arrest (M2), and obstruction.
These five defendants were arraigned today before Magisterial District Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., who set bail at $1 million for Cooper, Figueroa, Ramseure and Saunders. Bail was set at $250,000 for Tucker. All defendants were unable to post bail and remain in Montgomery County Correctional Facility. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for the defendants at 10 a.m., July 12, 2018 before Magisterial Distrcit Judge Scott Paladino.
Twenty additional defendants were arrested on charges that included corrupt organizations, drug law violations, conspiracy and related charges.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant Chief of the Trials Division Tonya Lupinacci, who oversees the Firearms and Narcotics Units, and the Captain of the Firearms Unit Laura Bradbury.
“I’ve said it before to dealers and I’ll say it again: don’t peddle your poison in Montgomery County,” said Steele. “Our law enforcement community is committed to working together to track down and prosecute dealers who are looking to profit from someone’s addiction and pain. Stay out of Montgomery County.”
Law enforcement was able to locate and open a hidden compartment in a drug dealer's minivan revealing nearly 200 grams of fentanyl—6,600 doses uncut—and a loaded gun. Part of "Operation Poison Control"
Posted by Montgomery County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, June 28, 2018