Ten members of a Reading drug ring blamed for six murders in the city — including a quadruple-homicide in 2018 — face new federal charges and seven of them could get the death penalty, Berks County and U.S. authorities said at a joint news conference Monday morning, Oct. 28.
The group had been selling heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine in Reading and using murder and kidnapping to help with those sales, Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams said standing with U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.
Those charged, including the group's leader, Jesus Feliciano-Trinidad, 29, lived in Reading, officials said.
“This is the most violent drug trafficking organization this city and this county has ever investigated,” Adams said.
The group caused mayhem, took the lives of six victims and disrupted life for many in Reading, he said.
“We were all overwhelmed by the acts of violence,” he said.
County detectives teamed with the FBI, Reading police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Montgomery County District Attorney's office on the investigation.
Six of those indicted Oct. 28 were initially charged by county and federal authorities in 2018 and earlier this year with homicide, drug distribution and firearms offenses for crimes authorities say they committed while working for a drug trafficking organization known as “Trinidad.”
The investigation continued, and resulted in the additional federal charges announced Monday, McSwain said.
Charged in addition to Trinidad were:
• Yomar Velazquez-Figueroa, 21.
• Fitzgerald Daliot-Rios, 29.
• Mariela Alvarado, 38.
• Dewayne Quinones, 25.
• Owen Malave-Medina, 22.
• Pedro Sanchez-Laporte, 28.
• Lillian Garcia-Ortiz, 20.
• Angel Rivera-Silva, 41.
• Mayco Alvarez-Jackson, 22.
All were in custody Oct. 28 except for Sanchez-Laporte, who was expected to be picked up shortly, officials said.
Included in the most recent indictment are allegations that various defendants:
• Conspired to shoot and kill Miguel Reyes, 24, of Reading in the 200 block of Pear Street on Dec. 13, 2017.
• Conspired to kidnap, shoot and kill Hector Gonzalez-Rivera, 37, of Reading in a garage in an alley near 10th and Chestnut streets on Jan. 24, 2018.
• Conspired to shoot and kill Jarlyn Lantigua-Tejada, 20, Juan Rodriguez, 23, Nelson Onofre, 23, and Joshua Santos, 20, all of Reading, in an apartment house in the 100 block of South Third Street on Jan. 28, 2018. The quadruple-homicide was intended to expand the group's sales territory, according to the indictment.
• Conspired to shoot individuals on Feb. 25 and 26, 2018, then conspired to commit another kidnapping on Feb. 27, 2018.
The charges announced Monday include murder, kidnapping, weapons and drug trafficking offenses, but information on who was charged with what wasn't available.
“The killings were completely senseless,” said Adams, who credited the continued hard work of law enforcement personnel for “removing the most dangerous criminals from our neighborhoods.”
“We are making a difference,” Adams said.
Though the men killed were also involved in the drug trade, they are still victims who deserve justice, McSwain said.
And the community deserves to be safe, which it wasn't with the Trinidad ring operating, he said.
The quadruple-homicide would have been terrifying in a city as big as Philadelphia, and was even more so in the smaller city of Reading, he said.
“You basically had bullets going everywhere,” he said.
The homicide rate in Berks has dropped from 11 in 2017 and 20 in 2018 to six so far this year, and McSwain attributed the decrease partly to the dismantling of the Trinidad gang.
He said federal and local officials will continue to work in Berks to find and deal with similar threats.
If convicted, Feliciano-Trinidad, Velazquez-Figueroa, Daliot-Rios, Quinones, Sanchez-Laporte, Rivera-Silva and Alvarez-Jackson face death-penalty eligible charges, McSwain said. Alvarado and Malave-Medina face up to life in prison, and Garcia-Ortiz up to 40 years behind bars.