Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams announced Thursday afternoon that a major drug trafficking organization was dismantled Wednesday, January 19, 2022. “Operation SmackDown” was a joint investigation by the Berks County Detectives, Pennsylvania State Police, City of Reading Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration.
A total of twenty-three mid to high-level suspects were identified and charged with committing offenses involving violations of the PA Crimes Code, specifically: Possession, Possession with the Intent to Deliver, Delivery, Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance (Heroin/Fentanyl/Cocaine/Marijuana), Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, Corrupt Organizations and Criminal Use of Communication Facility.
In September of 2021, an opioid overdose outbreak occurred in which was concentrated within the City of Reading. In a single weekend in September 2021, there were over one hundred hospitalizations with life threatening symptoms from a heroin/fentanyl overdosing, which was tainted with an unknown substance(s). Three of those overdoses resulted in death. The outbreak overwhelmed the healthcare capacity for Berks County and caused a public health alert to be issued by District Attorney John T. Adams.
Detectives from the District Attorney’s Drug Task Force and the Reading Police Department identified at least three outlets who were distributing “street level” quantities of the tainted heroin. Detectives quickly developed evidence and raided the locations and arrested several suspects. Although the outlets were closed and shut down by law enforcement, detectives continued to investigate the source of the tainted heroin.
Subsequently, the Berks County District Attorney’s Office Drug Task Force, the City of Reading Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police and Drug Enforcement Administration teamed up and launched an investigation. During the investigation, detectives identified an organization distributing large quantities of heroin, including the source of the tainted heroin. They identified Aurelio Carrazana Sanchez, who resides at 119 N. 3rd Street Reading, PA, as the main outlet for the organization in Berks County.
As the investigation progressed other suspects were developed which revealed a drug smuggling network that reached surrounding out of state sources.
Detectives utilized a court authorized wiretap as the primary tool in the investigation. The wiretap began in December of 2021 and detectives monitored the criminal activity being conducted for approximately a two-month period.
Detectives identified twenty-three suspects that were active members of the organization and seven locations in Berks County that were utilized as points of distribution. As a result, search warrants were served, and numerous suspects were taken into custody.
The following items were seized; a substantial amount of controlled substances with a street value of approximately $500,000 dollars, three firearms and a large amount of US Currency believed to be the proceeds from drug sales.
If convicted, the suspects face a substantial period of incarceration and fines in excess of one hundred thousand dollars.
“The success of dismantling this drug trafficking organization could only have been accomplished with the combined teamwork of local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. In this situation, we reacted and stamped out the Berks County source quickly, but that does not mean the source has been eliminated completely. For our purpose, this is an ongoing investigation which will continue until we can stamp out what we believe is the ultimate source” said District Attorney John T. Adams.
To date, a total of seventeen of the twenty-three suspects have been apprehended during the round-up. Those individuals were arrested and transported to the Berks County Sheriff’s Department Central Processing Center for processing and preliminary arraignment.