Members of 3-county fentanyl ring arrested
Authorities announce arrests of three-county fentanyl ring
Authorities dismantled a drug ring based in the Pottstown region and arrested its members.
Authorities dismantled a corrupt organization and arrested its members who “were dealing in death,” allegedly distributing the deadly drug fentanyl, as well as cocaine, primarily in the Pottstown region but also in Berks and Lehigh counties.
“These men were dealing in death. They were delivering poison that has fueled the addictions and overdoses that have affected so many people in Montgomery County and the surrounding region,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said on Thursday as he announced the results of the investigation dubbed “Operation Poison Control.”
Authorities identified David Tyrone Cooper, 43, of the 1000 block of Saylor Street, Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, as the leader of the alleged corrupt organization.
Miguel A. “Migz” Figueroa Jr., 34, of the 700 block of Lance Place, Reading, was identified in court papers as Cooper’s fentanyl, heroin and cocaine supplier.
Three Pottstown men, Jerome Beverly Tucker, 63, of the 400 block of Chestnut Street, Aaron “Ace” Ramseure, 31, of the 900 block of North Hanover Street, and Christopher Saunders, 25, of the 400 block of King Street, also face charges in connection with their alleged roles in the organization.
Saunders, who also listed addresses in the 700 block of Walnut Street and the 500 block of High Street, was identified by Steele as Cooper’s stepson and “a member of the organization’s upper echelon” who allegedly was responsible for overseeing the distribution of cocaine and fentanyl in Pottstown.
Steele characterized Ramseure as “second-in-command to Cooper, one of Cooper’s right-hand men.”
Steele alleged Tucker’s job was “to cook the crack cocaine,” preparing it for distribution.
The five men face various charges for their alleged roles in the organization, including corrupt organizations, conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver controlled substances, criminal use of a communication facility and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities. Cooper and Figueroa also face weapons charges.
“By taking these major drug traffickers off the street, as well as locking up their 10 sub-dealers and their lower-level dealers, we have severed an artery in the region’s drug pipeline,” Steele added. “I’ve said it before to dealers and I’ll say again, don’t peddle your poison in Montgomery County. Stay out of Montgomery County.”
The five defendants were arraigned Thursday before District Court Judge Edward Kropp Jr., who set bail at $1 million for Cooper, Figueroa, Ramseure and Saunders. Bail was set at $250,000 cash for Tucker. Unable to post bail each of the men remains in the county jail awaiting preliminary hearings on July 12.
Steele said the investigation is continuing to determine if the drug trafficking resulted in any overdose deaths. If overdose deaths are uncovered, the men could face additional charges of drug delivery resulting in death.
Investigators with the district attorney’s Violent Crime Unit said the organization’s criminal activities were reported to police by nine confidential informants and three anonymous “concerned citizens.” The investigation also included electronic surveillance including wiretaps on the suspects’ phones, visual surveillance, controlled drug buys and seizures of evidence with search warrants.
“These three concerned citizens live in Pottstown and wanted to do the right thing in ridding their community of this serious drug dealing,” Steele said. “This is a solid community of good people, law-abiding people who care about their community…I thank them for coming forward.”
Pottstown Police Chief F. Richard Drumheller praised the investigation and thanked the citizens who provided information.
“We never turn down help and we’re looking to solve problems. Pottstown is full of a lot of very, very good citizens. This is a scourge on their community and they want it to end,” Drumheller said.
“When somebody comes forward and gives you information they then gauge you to see what you do with it. And if you do nothing with it they lose faith in their law enforcement. But when they see an actual case come down like this…once the picture unfolded and a lot of people saw it, there were a lot of people who came forward and said, ‘Thank you for helping us out.’ That’s what law enforcement is all about,” Drumheller added.
During the course of the investigation, detectives learned that Cooper was previously jailed for about 10 years on drug trafficking charges and while he was preparing for release from a state prison in 2015 he “formulated a plan” to distribute drugs in Montgomery County, according to the criminal complaint.
“These three concerned citizens live in Pottstown and wanted to do the right thing in ridding their community of this serious drug dealing.” — Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele
“This investigation revealed Cooper accomplished his goal,” detectives wrote. “This plan included the enlistment of various sub-dealers, including his stepson, Chris Saunders.”
In a letter he allegedly wrote to Saunders from prison in July 2015 Cooper wrote, “When I touch down I should have a whole chicken waiting for me a few of my folks are going to bless me. I just gotta (sic) make sure dudes are ready for that type of action feel me” and indicated he was “in the process of putting a little team together,” according to court papers.
Detectives trained in interpreting coded language and street jargon alleged the term “whole chicken” referred to a kilogram of cocaine.
“It is also my opinion when Cooper wrote, ‘my folks are going to bless me’ Cooper is informing Saunders that Cooper’s source of supply will provide him with the illegal drugs upon his release,” detectives wrote in the arrest affidavit. “It is my opinion when Cooper wrote ‘touch down’ he is describing his plan upon his release from prison.”
When Cooper wrote “I just gotta (sic) make sure dudes are ready for that type of action” he was relaying to Saunders his concern about moving the illegal drugs quickly by needing to confirm that his future sub-dealers would be prepared to sell large quantities of the illegal drugs, detectives alleged.
The letter was found during a search of a vehicle associated with Saunders, along with heroin and drug paraphernalia, detectives said.
On June 1, 2018, detectives intercepted phone calls between Cooper and his alleged confederates that revealed Figueroa was to deliver fentanyl to Cooper at the Muhlenberg Township residence, according to court papers. Surveillance was established in the area and detectives observed Figueroa arrive in a Honda Odyssey and meet with Cooper.
“As law enforcement approached the residence, Cooper observed law enforcement and fled on foot. When Cooper fled he left a small child in his vehicle,” detectives alleged.
Cooper is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
During a search of Cooper’s residence, detectives seized cocaine, drug packaging materials and a firearm, according to the arrest affidavit. Detectives alleged the cocaine was obtained from Figueroa.
Figueroa also utilized a concealed compartment, or void, in the rear of the Honda Odyssey to conceal drugs. A state police trooper trained to identify such altered vehicle compartments searched the vehicle and discovered two bags of fentanyl, nearly 200 grams, and a Glock .40-caliber firearm.
Officials said the fentanyl seized could have been divided into 6,600 doses on the street.
“That’s a lot of fentanyl that is not on the street,” Steele said.
Searches also were conducted at other residences in Montgomery, Berks and Lehigh counties and resulted in the seizure of drugs, seven firearms and $34,000 cash, court papers indicate.
The arrests were the culmination of a joint investigation by authorities from Montgomery, Berks and Lehigh counties, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and Pennsylvania State Police.
“I’ve said it before to dealers and I’ll say again, don’t peddle your poison in Montgomery County. Stay out of Montgomery County.” — Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele
Top row, from left, David Cooper, Miguel Figueroa Jr. Bottom row, from left, Aaron Ramseure, Christopher Saunders, Gerome Tucker.
Montgomery County authorities displayed the guns and drug paraphernalia that were seized during “Operation Poison Control” in Pottstown.