Six members of a drug ring that ran a heroin mill out of an unassuming house in Bucks County have pleaded guilty and will spend years in state prison. And the drug ring’s alleged kingpin is expected to admit his guilt at a hearing next month, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The guilty pleas, entered Friday, came a little over a year after a dramatic, late-night raid exposed a multimillion-dollar drug operation on Cheryl Drive in Warminster. Federal agents joined county detectives in storming the modest split-level home, which had been under surveillance for months after concerned neighbors noticed suspicious activity there, according to Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rees.
Inside, investigators found a veritable assembly line for manufacturing and packaging heroin in what they described as a massive drug operation. Out of the suburban basement, authorities said, the group distributed the narcotic throughout the county and across the state, raking in an estimated $8 million a week.
The drug ring was an unexpected presence in the Warminster neighborhood, where its work was hidden in plain sight. The group put up seasonal holiday decorations and mostly blended in on the street, investigators said. But in time, some late-night comings and goings aroused suspicion among neighbors, who alerted police.
“This was clearly a criminal organization," Rees said Tuesday. “There was no indication that the individuals participating in this were themselves drug users in any way. It was just their job to manufacture poison for distribution in Bucks County and Pennsylvania.”
Now six members of the drug ring have pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug possession with intent to deliver, and criminal conspiracy: Roberto Espinal, 48; Luigi Ortega, 31; Carlos Garcia Perez, 34; Eleni Saturrie, 39; Nuris Martinez, 47; and Delvin Perez, 38.
The roles each played in the operation are unclear, but authorities have said evidence linking all of them to the drug mill were found inside the home, including wallets and prescription medication. Investigators believe they were recruited from different parts of the region: Some lived in Philadelphia, others elsewhere in Warminster. One, Garcia Perez, came from New York City, court records show.
Bucks County Judge Brian McGuffin sentenced Garcia Perez and Perez to 34 months to six years in prison, and the four others were sentenced to three to six years in prison, court records show.
“The sentences — especially in light of the fact that none have prior convictions of any kind — reflect the seriousness in which Bucks County’s investigators, DA, and the county bench take the opioid crisis,” Rees said.
A seventh member of the ring, Yocasta Maria Mercedes, 38, pleaded guilty last month, and was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
Dariel Vasquez, 40, of Frankford, one of two men who prosecutors say organized the ring, pleaded guilty in November and is serving a 5- to 10-year sentence in state prison.
The other alleged ringleader, Moises Rodriguez, 44, of Paterson, N.J., is expected to plead guilty to similar drug offenses next month, authorities said.
Two others who had been expected to plead guilty skipped court and bench warrants were issued for their arrests: Jose Luis-Morales, 36, who authorities said was living in the country illegally and was deported after his arrest to the Dominican Republic, and Luis Torres, 32, who investigators believe cut off the GPS tracker he was issued as a condition of his bail.