Monday, May 6, 2019

Attorney General Shapiro Announces Major Hazleton Fentanyl Distribution Ring Takedown

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced charges against of six individuals Friday for operating a major fentanyl distribution organization in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Agents executed search warrants on three residences in Hazleton on Thursday, confiscating 145 bricks of suspected fentanyl and one AR15 style rifle. One brick is estimated to contain 50 bags of fentanyl, and the organization sometimes sold bags for as little as 77 cents each.

Thursday’s arrests are the result of a wiretap investigation into the organization believed to have operated under the leadership of Joel Tejada Guerra, 28, of Hazleton since 2016. Guerra utilized sub-dealers to distribute the fentanyl for which he was taking orders. Guerra and his organization are estimated to have sold quantities of anywhere between 2 and 75 bricks of fentanyl at a time. Guerra is estimated to have sold more 2,000 bricks of fentanyl in 2019 alone, having a street value in excess of $1 million in Hazleton City. 2,000 bricks is the equivalent to roughly 100,000 doses of fentanyl, depending on the individual user.

“The heroin and opioid epidemic is ravaging Pennsylvania communities—including right here in Hazleton,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Luzerne County lost 143 individuals to drug overdose in 2018, and fentanyl is now responsible for approximately 2/3 of overdose deaths. An important part of my job as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Pennsylvania is to target high level drug dealers who are pushing these poisons into our communities. I’m grateful for the strong collaboration between state and local law enforcement to break up this fentanyl distribution ring and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Those arrested Thursday are: Joel Tejada Guerra, 28, Hazleton; Manuel Sanchez Medina, Hazleton; Cristian Tejada Guerra, 18, Hazleton; Richardson Rosario, 20, Hazleton; Angel Estrada, 32, Kingston; Hassan Harrell, 27, Freeland. Joel Tejada Guerra, Cristian Tejada Guerra, and Manuel Sanchez-Medina were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas and held on $250,000 bail. The three defendants are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 15th at 10:30am.

Agencies participating in the investigation include: PA Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics – Region VIII – Wilkes-Barre, PA Office of Attorney General Strategic Response Team, PA Office of Attorney Special Operations Group, Hazleton City Police Department, Hazleton City Police Department Special Operations Group, West Hazleton Police Department, Luzerne County Drug Task Force, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Scranton Police Bomb Squad, and K-9 Justice and Chase from the Wilkes-Barre City and Hazleton City Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General William Abraham.

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