Fire destroys alleged Berks County drug den

Author: , Reporter, JStover@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 24 2013 02:35:32 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 04 2013 07:40:59 AM EST
EARL TWP., Pa. -

Police in Berks County are investigating a fire that destroyed a home in Earl Township, Berks County, early Sunday morning.

Flames overtook a mobile home on Power Line Road around 3 a.m.

A neighbor captured the fire on film and said the home was recently the scene of a drug raid.

"I immediately turned on my camera system," said Mark Puskar, neighbor.

Detectives in Montgomery and Berks counties  have had their eye on his neighbor, Michael Bentz, 47, since May.

"The drug activity has been going on for about three years.  But no one really noticed it too much until the constant traffic kept coming in all night long," Puskar said.

On Oct. 25, officials raided the mobile home at 24 Power Line Road in Earl Township.  Puskar said the home is owned by Michael Bentz's father.

 Officials found 3 pounds of marijuana, methamphetamine, several guns and ammunition. 

Bentz faces five drug charges from the incident. If convicted, Bentz faces a minimum five-year sentence.

"Right after the initial broadcast of the initial drug raid, I started getting text messages threatening me.  People telling me I should kill myself and move out of the neighborhood," Puskar said.

Puskar said neighbors up and down the street have been living in fear ever since.

"They feel they are unsafe with me here," Puskar said.  "They don't understand it's not me that's the issue.  I am the one that noticed these issues in the neighborhood.  I am the only one that spoke up about it, and not afraid to speak up about it."

Puskar doesn't believe it's mere coincidence.

"After I told them where I saw the fire, they informed me it was started with a mattress and a bag of clothing," he said. I previously saw one of the neighbors drop off this mattress and supposed bag of clothes.  That was placed here Friday night."

He also doesn't believe it was random.

"I noticed a gentleman running from the scene of the fire.  I have his name and I've given that inforation to the State Police Reading Barracks,"Puskar said.

Puskar said there was no electricity at the home when the fire ignited. 

As of Sunday afternoon, officials had not yet deemed the fire accidental or suspicious. The State Fire Marshal's Office and State Police in Berks County are investigating. No word on cause.  However, officials did say that nobody was injured.