Six Mexican nationals have been arrested for their roles in the high-level trafficking of drugs throughout Berks and Montgomery counties, law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.
The ring, based in Reading, trafficked cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, said Berks County District Attorney John Adams and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman during a news conference in Norristown.
"We cannot stand by and allow these kind of traffickers and this kind of drug to have a foothold in our community," said Ferman.
"Drug dealers and criminals do not know any boundaries, and unless we work together, we're not going to make a difference," said Adams.
The undercover investigation, dubbed "Operation Breaking Bad," began in December and culminated with the arrest of the final suspect on Monday.
During the first meeting on Dec. 17 between an undercover detective and suspect Jose DeJesus Montilla, officials said Montilla offered to sell the detective one pound of crystal methamphetamine for $27,000. The detective subsequently bought 28 grams of the drug for $1,800, said officials, adding that Montilla also asked for the detective's help in obtaining a handgun.
On Jan. 25, Montilla and some of the other suspects met with the undercover detective at Zern's Farmers Market in Douglass Twp., Montgomery Co., giving the detective a small sample of cocaine before selling him two ounces of the drug for $2,000, officials said.
On Aug. 12, officials said Montilla, negotiating the sale of a large quantity of crystal meth, directed a subordinate to deliver two kinds of crystal meth to the detective at a restaurant on East Philadelphia Avenue in Douglass Twp., Montgomery Co.
"Crystal meth is the product they want to sell because it's where they can make the most money. There is little competition for them. They are looking to create that market for this poison in our community," said Ferman, who added Berks and Montgomery counties are an untapped market for crystal meth.
On Aug. 31, Montilla agreed to a payment of $43,000 for 1.5 pounds of crystal meth, which was delivered on the Zern's parking lot by Hector Hugo Cucuas, said officials, adding that Eloy Solorio-Flores and Alder Hernandez-Solorio were on hand to oversee the transaction.
All three suspects were then taken into custody by detectives, who said they seized a loaded handgun, the 1.5 pounds of meth and seven cell phones.
Berks County detectives subsequently apprehended Jose DeJesus Montilla and Juan Carlos Morales-Soria.
Pennsylvania State Police arrested the final suspect, Alejandro Ruiz Cabrera, on Monday.
"What we found through this investigation is these are individuals with direct ties to the cartels in Mexico," said Ferman.
"Crystal meth is a dangerous dangerous drug. The quicker we can get to the heart and take out the dealers and the suppliers, the quicker we can end that plague," said Adams.
The men operated under different aliases, and were all involved in the conspiracy, said officials.
All six Mexican nationals were charged with corrupt organization, delivery and/or possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, firearms not to be carried without a license, criminal use of communication facility and related offenses, officials said.
Five of the men were arraigned Tuesday afternoon on $1 million bail at Montgomery County Prison. The sixth suspect, Montilla, is still in Berks County.
The case will be prosecuted in Montgomery County.