Officials in Reading have arrested 18 individuals and have warrants out for more in a criminal drug trafficking organization bust called "Operation K-O'd."
At a news conference held on Friday, Berks County District Attorney John Adams said in May 2018, a concerned citizen gave police information about suspected illegal drug activity in the 500 block of Gordon Street and in a garage on Miltimore Street.
Upon investigation, officials found the scope of the distribution network spanned other areas including Exeter, Muhlenberg, Alsace Township, St. Lawrence Borough, West Reading and other townships throughout Berks County.
During the investigation, officials used electronic and physical surveillance to identify participants and locations.
On Dec. 13, search warrants were served at the following locations:
210 North 9th Street, Reading 541 Gordon Street, Reading 343 Hollenbach Street, Reading 211 West Douglass Street, Reading 372 Rugby Road, Exeter 2321 Alsace Road, Alsace Township 3323 Gray Street, Muhlenberg Police found over 200 pounds of synthetic cannabinoids (K2), cocaine, prescription opioid pills, drug paraphernalia, $180,000, a pistol and an assault rifle, Adams said. He added that investigators found the opioids were smuggled from Colombia and Puerto Rico.
Adams said synthetic marijuana is more dangerous than some realize. Investigators say the K2 seized in this operation is likely coated in part with weed killer and acetone.
"They'll put anything in it to satisfy their customer base or to get them addicted," Adams said.
Additionally, locations in Berks were found to be where bulk K2 was being manufactured and processed. Adams said as much as 50 pounds of K2 were being manufactured at one time and distributed on the streets through Berks.
Watch the full news conference here.
According to court paperwork, Jose Vega-Acevedo, 33, is the leader of the organization.
Vega-Acevedo has previous criminal history facing drug charges, criminal homicide and aggravated assault charges, among others. He was free on bail on a pending attempted murder charge.
According to Adams, officials are filing a motion to revoke the bail.
The following individuals identified as dealers have been arrested and taken into custody: Jose Vega-Acevedo, 33; Jose Vega-Cartagena, 52; Alberto Medina-Roman, 39; Keysel Hernandez-Medina, 28; Pablo Rodriguez, 42; Diosvell Alvarez-Nieves, 31; Edwin Colon, 19; Antonio Alvarez, 64; Hassan Bennett, 36; Aaron Copeland, 30; Miriam Cosme, 23 and Julio Lopez, 52.
The following individuals identified as dealers remain at large: Christopher Martir, 46; Lester Ozuna-Gonzalez, 39; Marco Ocasio, 48 and Josean Maldonado, 39.
Police have also arrested individuals who are identified as customers, Adams said.
The following customers have been arrested: Raul Lopez, 37; Lesley Kagels, 31; Jason Butt, 39; James Downey, 54; Justin Gonzalez, 44 and Ashley Figueroa, 27.
The following customers remain at large: Eddie Wright, 64; Yesenia Carrasquillo, 28; Todd Saylor, 36; Sheila Echevaria-Castro, 45; William Camacho, 32 and Nehemiah Davis, 26.
Bail for all individuals ranged from $5,000 to $1 million.
"It's a good accomplishment to take these individuals off the street," said Adams.
"I'm happy because this is a good neighborhood but the drugs just make it a lot worse," said a man who lives near one of the areas first placed under surveillance.
Officials are continuing the investigation.
"We're not everywhere on the street. We need the public to come forward to tell us what they've seen, what they've heard and what they know," said Adams.
If you have any information regarding the individuals who remain at large, contact Crime Alert Berks County.