Berks

Undercover drug sting seeks to stop rash of overdose deaths

2 alleged dealers among more than 20 arrested

READING, Pa. - Law enforcement authorities are on a mission. Their goal: to stop the distribution of dangerous drugs that are behind a rash of overdose deaths in Berks County.

District Attorney John Adams announced Friday the results of his office's latest effort, an undercover sting dubbed "Operation Saving Lives."

The results: Two alleged dealers are behind bars in connection with the sale of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl from an apartment in the 500 block of Buttonwood Street in Reading.

"[The detectives] posed as drug dealers and sold purported packets of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine to customers who were going to that address, probably as part of their daily routine," Adams said.

Three other alleged dealers, pictured in the gallery below, are still being sought.

Fentanyl has been a focus of several recent drug enforcement efforts, largely because it can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, making it much more dangerous for users, officials said.

The operation also resulted in the arrests of 19 suspected drug users, including one from West Virginia and another from Florida.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem," said Adams. 

During their search of the apartment, detectives said they seized 151 packets of suspected heroin/fentanyl and 77 packets of suspected cocaine, as well as assorted packaging material and drug paraphernalia.

The alleged dealers under arrest were identified as Janeira Guzman, 37, and Erick M. Alvarado-Rivera, 19, both of whom lived at the apartment on Buttonwood Street. They're now in the Berks County Jail on $150,000 bail each.

The alleged drug users who were arrested were identified by authorities as:

  • Brad Clemens, 34, of Robeson Township
  • Perry Ortega, 31, of West Reading
  • Jessica Kawski, 28 (homeless)
  • Joshua Hodges, 26, (homeless)
  • Juan Rodriguez-Torres, 52, of Reading
  • Maritza Castro, 43, of Reading
  • Fernando Rodriguez, 49, of Reading
  • Eleanor Tompkins, 49, of Reading
  • Robert Medina, 30, of Reading
  • Jason Myers, 40, of Robesonia
  • Mark Grim, 49, of Reading
  • Gregorix Abad-Rosado, 24, of Reading
  • Jose Rodriguez-Reyes, 36, of Reading
  • Jesse Cope, 44, of Reading
  • Felipe Hernandez, 37, of Reading
  • Jesus Rivera-Nieves, 35, of Reading
  • Elijah Behm, 41, of West Virginia
  • Michael Medina, 52, of Reading
  • Alain Vazquez, 30, of Florida

"Just because someone goes to treatment doesn't necessarily mean they're going to get better," said Stan Papademetriou, the new executive director of the Berks County Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA). "Recovery is a hard road, but treatment is the first step and we want to make sure we provide effective treatment."​


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