A Bucks County judge, citing state law, on Tuesday significantly reduced the bail for nine people charged with operating a massive heroin production center inside a suburban home, with most being held on as little as $1.
Still, the majority of the group remained in custody Wednesday, with the notable exception of Moises Rodriguez, 43, who prosecutors say was one of the masterminds behind the $8 million-a-week operation. Rodriguez’s bail was reduced to 10 percent of $40,000, which he posted late Tuesday, court records show.
In his ruling, Common Pleas Court Judge Brian T. McGuffin said that because the group has been in custody for well beyond the 180 days mandated by state statute, his criteria for considering their bail were “severely limited.” McGuffin’s ruling came after a request last month from the defendants’ attorneys for bail reductions.
“The undersigned … is abundantly familiar with the epidemic effect that heroin and fentanyl have had on individuals, families, and our community,” he said, adding that the consequences are “frequently heartbreaking.”
“However, despite the serious nature of these charges and the significance of the defendants’ alleged behavior in our community, the commonwealth’s failure to bring defendants to trial constrains the court to grant [the motion],” he added.
Rodriguez and his 10 codefendants — Dariel Vasquez, Nuris Martinez, Yocasta Maria-Mercedes, Eleni Saturrie, Carlos Garcia-Perez, Roberto Espinal, Jose Luis-Morales, Luis Torres, Delvin Perez, and Luigi Ortega — were arrested in December after Warminster police raided a home on Cheryl Drive.
Investigators had been conducting surveillance on the house for two months, and discovered a sophisticated heroin mill in the basement, with work stations that covered every stage of the drug packaging process.
All 11 defendants face drug manufacturing, conspiracy, and racketeering charges. McGuffin’s bail ruling excluded Perez and Garcia-Perez, whose defense attorneys each filed separate motions last week for reductions in bail. Those motions were pending Wednesday.
At a pretrial hearing Aug. 26, Assistant District Attorney Megan Stricker, the lead prosecutor on the case, argued against reducing bail. At the time, the amounts varied, with some defendants facing as much as 10 percent of $5 million.
Stricker said the defendants pose “an obvious and real danger to the community” and noted that they have little to no connection to the county and pose a “very real flight risk.”
Five of the 11 people charged in the case are U.S. citizens, according to prosecutors; the others have active Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.
Regardless, any suspect in this case who posts bail would have to submit to electronic monitoring, according to court documents.
In a separate ruling filed Monday, McGuffin also granted a request by prosecutors to disqualify two attorneys on the case, Laurence Narcisi III and Guy R. Sciolla II. Each had represented two defendants at the preliminary hearing, but later withdrew for one of their clients as other attorneys stepped in.
Prosecutors argued that it was improper for the two to remain, citing potential conflicts of interest.
One such conflict is already an issue: Moises Rodriguez told prosecutors that he shared confidential information about the case with Narcisi before switching to his current attorney, Genesis Peduto.
McGuffin agreed with prosecutors’ assessment, and also noted the possibility of “the incredibly awkward situation” of cross-examining a former client.
Sciolla’s client, Dariel Vasquez, is now represented by Thomas Burke. Narcisi’s client, Garcia-Perez, currently has no attorney listed.