Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Five Arrested for Operating Drug Trafficking Ring in Schuylkill County

On Tuesday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro visited Schuylkill County to announce along side District Attorney Mike O'Pake, the arrest of five individuals for their roles in the distribution and trafficking of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Schuylkill County and the surrounding region.
“Increasingly, we’re seeing fentanyl replace heroin as the dominant opioid here in Pennsylvania, because of its low cost – as little as 79 cents a dose.” Attorney General Shapiro. “We are also seeing fentanyl contaminating other drugs, sometimes at lethal doses. We will not sit idly by when dealers traffic poison across Pennsylvania and try to profit from devastating our communities. My office, along with our strong law enforcement partners like District Attorney Mike O’Pake, will continue to hold those accountable who profit from drug trafficking.”

The investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, in partnership with Pottsville Bureau of Police, Port Carbon Police Department, and other local law enforcement, identified five individuals who operated this drug trafficking ring over the past year: Said Rivera, the ring leader, and dealers Christopher Hall, Amanda Tice, Donalea Turolis and Joseph Weikel. Investigators determined that these individuals orchestrated the sale and distribution of more than 1,000 fentanyl pills and one pound of methamphetamine per week in the region during this time period.

Search warrants were executed at various locations associated with the defendants in Schuylkill County. These searches resulted in the seizure of approximately 368 doses of methamphetamine, approximately 2300 doses of fentanyl, two bags of fentanyl pills (approx. 55 grams), approximately 746 individually packaged bags each containing fentanyl, four rifles, one pistol, $8,052 in cash, several digital scales, and packaging materials. Additional fentanyl, paraphernalia and ammunition were found in a search of a car used in this drug operation.

“The ringleader of this drug trafficking ring was a felon not to possess firearms. Agents seized five guns while executing search warrants. Drug trafficking continues to be a violent enterprise,” said AG Shapiro.

Due to its low cost and high potency, fentanyl has increasingly replaced heroin as the dominant opioid in Pennsylvania. In 2021, the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation seized more fentanyl than in the previous four years combined, while seizures of heroin declined.

The five defendants have each been charged with the following: Corrupt Organizations, Possession with Intent to deliver methamphetamine and fentanyl, Criminal Conspiracy to commit these offenses, possession of controlled substances, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Rivera is a felon not to possess a firearm and will also be charged with that offense.

“Fighting the war on drugs in Schuylkill County is not a singular effort. Collaboration and cooperation among all law enforcement entities and agencies is the key to success. I am honored and proud to welcome Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, to Schuylkill County so as to ensure Schuylkill County residents that we are working and fighting every day to keep you safe from the crime that drug dealers and users try to bring into our County. The District Attorney’s Office of Schuylkill County thanks Mr. Shapiro, our Sheriff’s Office, state and local law enforcement, and federal authorities for your commitment to winning the war on drugs.”

The Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigation agents out of Allentown have established strong partnerships with the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force and many of the local police departments, specifically Pottsville Bureau of Police. As a result, agents executed 20 search warrants resulting in the seizure of 14 firearms, approximately $40,000 cash, 2,489 grams of methamphetamine; cocaine; heroin; marijuana and various fentanyl pills in 2021, and made 10 arrests.

Schuylkill County was one of the first counties to join the Office of Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative. Since joining in 2020, they have referred 27 individuals into treatment. Schuylkill County is also set to receive $7.9 million as part of the national opioid settlement. The first checks are on track to be distributed in late spring.

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Christie Bonesch. All charges are accusations. The defendants are innocent unless and until proven guilty.