District Attorney John T. Adams announced on Thursday, July 23, the arrests of five people stemming from an 18-month investigation that broke up an operation trafficking in synthetic marijuana and other drugs with tentacles in Berks, Lancaster and Schuylkill counties.
Noel D. Rivera of the 400 block of Franklin Street, West Reading, was a key figure in the operation, officials said.
He was arrested July 20 after a traffic stop on Route 222 in Berks, officials said.
Authorities say a search of the vehicle revealed a secret compartment in the dash. Officers bypassed the sequence to open the “trap” and discovered a plastic bag containing $14,750 and a loaded 9mm handgun with laser sights, which had been reported stolen to police in Coal Township, Schuylkill County.
Rivera was charged with possession of a controlled substance; delivery of a controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and other charges related to the alleged drug trafficking.
Also arrested were:
Arius Cooper, 29, of the 2300 block of Grandview Boulevard, Spring Township
Lynchel Cooper, 24, also of the 2300 block of Grandview Boulevard
Devon Given, 31, Lancaster
John Reppert, 29, of the 1000 block of Fern Avenue, Kenhorst.
Two people charged in the investigation remain at large:
Luis Sanabria, 28, of the 800 block of North Fifth Street
Charles Matthew, 39, Lancaster.
The Berks County Drug Task Force teamed with state police as well as authorities in Schuylkill County for the investigation, which they named Operation Crystal Blue.
A large quantity of synthetic marijuana was seized as well as other illegal substances, firearms and money.
Adams said the investigation began in early 2019 when detectives in Schuylkill County identified a significant source of the supply of illegal drugs entering their community.
Detectives determined that the base of operations was in Berks County and had ties with illegal drug trafficking into Lancaster County dealing bulk amounts of various types of illegal drugs including heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and synthetic marijuana.
On June 23, Adams sought electronic surveillance of Rivera and the application was authorized by a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, Adams said.
Detectives say that through the wiretap they learned Rivera was associated with numerous individuals who either were being supplied or assisting with acquiring bulk quantities of illegal drugs. They said Given supplied bulk quantities of the K2 for Rivera and others.
Adams said K2 was processed and stored at a residence in the 300 block of Locust Street, Reading, and a storage facility in Fleetwood.
On July 15, detectives obtained a search warrant for those locations and seized 53 pounds of suspected K2 plus other materials and equipment such as acetone and garden sprayers, a loaded .40 caliber handgun and $15,200.
Five days later state police stopped Rivera and placed him into custody for outstanding felony drug charges, and a search warrant was obtained for his vehicle.
On July 21, law enforcement obtained search warrants for houses in West Reading, Reading, Lancaster and Columbia, Lancaster County.
Early July 22, officers served arrest warrants and search warrants.
In all, they seized 8 pounds of K2, more than an ounce of cocaine, several containers of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as well as $2,000; a loaded AR15 Bushmaster .223 rifle; a loaded Ruger .380 pistol; a Browning .380 semi-automatic pistol; numerous magazines loaded with .223 ammunition, and a 9mm drum magazine.
All of the suspects were transported to the Sheriff’s Central Processing Unit. Bail amounts were unavailable.
Authorities are seeking help in finding those who remain at large. Contact Crime Alert Berks County at 877-373-9913 or Berks County District Attorney’s at 610-478-7171.
Crime Alert pays cash rewards for tips that lead to an arrest.