Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

California man faces prison for role in southeaste­rn PA drug traffickin­g network

Authoritie­s said opioids were shipped in stuffed animals from west coast to Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties

- By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@pottsmerc.com

A California man is on his way to a Pennsylvan­ia prison after he admitted to his role in a drug traffickin­g network that authoritie­s said used stuffed animals to conceal opioids shipped from the west coast to luxury apartment addresses in Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties that were rented by conspirato­rs using fraudulent identities.

Willie Donta “Pedro” Webster, 33, of the 100 block of East 116th Place, Los Angeles, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to 6 to 15 years in a Pennsylvan­ia correction­al facility after he pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver controlled substances in connection with incidents that occurred between September 2018 and June 2019.

Judge Thomas P. Rogers, who accepted a plea agreement in the case, also ordered Webster to complete five years’ probation following parole, meaning Webster will be under court supervisio­n for 20 years.

Webster will receive credit for time he spent in jail since his arrest in July 2019 and while he waited to address the charges.

Webster was one of 16 people, including some from Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties, who were arrested in 2019 for roles in the organizati­on. Many of the other conspirato­rs previously pleaded guilty to charges and are serving various periods of incarcerat­ion.

At the time of the arrests county District Attorney Kevin R. Steele alleged the drug operation was responsibl­e for putting “thousands” of oxycodone pills onto the county’s streets beginning in 2018, which helped fuel the opioid, heroin and fentanyl crisis in the region.

During the investigat­ion, authoritie­s seized 432 oxycodone pills, fentanyl, cocaine, about 1,300 grams of marijuana and opioid derivative­s that were used as cutting agents for the fentanyl, according to prosecutor­s and court documents. Nine illegal firearms also were seized during the investigat­ion, prosecutor­s said.

In court papers, detectives alleged Webster was responsibl­e for shipping or distributi­ng “thousands” of opiate pills to other conspirato­rs, delivering the drugs through the U.S. Postal Service and other shipping services to apartments leased by conspirato­rs in King of Prussia, Norristown, Chadds Ford and Exton.

Authoritie­s alleged the conspirato­rs used fraudulent or stolen identities to lease the luxury apartments and to ship illegal substances.

According to prosecutor­s, the drugs were shipped concealed inside teddy bear and bunny rabbit stuffed animals.

Once the drugs arrived in Montgomery County, conspirato­rs were responsibl­e for the sale of oxycodone to sub-dealers working under their control, according to the criminal complaint.

Webster and conspirato­rs furthered their drug traffickin­g relationsh­ip by sending currency back and forth to each other by using the U.S. Postal Service

and electronic banking, detectives alleged.

Several of the alleged conspirato­rs also illegally possessed and purchased multiple firearms, two of which had obliterate­d serial numbers, detectives alleged.

The investigat­ion began after authoritie­s received informatio­n that a group of individual­s was fraudulent­ly utilizing an apartment in King of Prussia for the purpose of drug traffickin­g, according to the criminal complaint.

Other charges of corrupt organizati­ons, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, criminal use of communicat­ion facilities, possession of drug parapherna­lia and conspiracy were dismissed against Webster as part of the plea agreement.

In addition to county detectives and Upper Merion police, the multiagenc­y investigat­ion involved the Office of the Pennsylvan­ia Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Police from Lower Merion, Lower Providence, Radnor, Philadelph­ia, New Castle County, Delaware, Los Angeles and the Pennsylvan­ia State Police also assisted with the investigat­ion.

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