A two-month investigation has landed a Berks County man behind bars after he allegedly smuggled cocaine into the country from Panama.
The drugs were headed for Berks, but federal authorities figured it out in Miami, said investigators.
Luis Barrios was arrested Thursday night at his home in Spring Township for being the main conspirator behind the smuggling operation, said investigators.
In December, the Department of Homeland Security intercepted a "Christmas present." Mixed in with Santa hats and labeled, "Christmas decorations," the feds found 650 grams of cocaine worth $65,000 inside a box, officials said.
"The package was tied in with Mr. Barrios through the investigation," said Lt. Rich Troutman, Spring Twp. Police Dept.
The package was addressed to a fictitious person in Reading, said police. Agents in Miami made the discovery and sent the box overnight to Philadelphia.
"Once it arrived in Philadelphia, their agents then tracked it to the Reading area," said Troutman.
Undercover agents delivered the box to Reading, set surveillance on the home, and found out the box made its way to Barrios' home in the 1800 block of Portland Avenue in West Lawn.
"It's awful. There's a school how many streets down? It's not good for our neighborhood or anybody's neighborhood," said Christa Bowman, who lives on Portland Avenue.
Neighbors living on the same block couldn't believe the alleged scheme was happening right under their noses.
"Yeah, it's kind of scary. I didn't even know it," said Paula Cieplinski, only a few doors away from Barrios' home.
Barrios was already facing charges from two other drug arrests in the fall. He was out on bail awaiting trial, said investigators.
Barrios was charged early Friday with attempt to possess with intent to deliver cocaine, conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine, criminal use of communication facility, and related charges. He was committed to the Berks County Jail on $75,000 bail.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Berks County detectives worked together with the Spring Township Police Department in the most recent investigation of Barrios.