A major drug ring that supplied mass amounts of tainted heroin that made NARCAN ineffective and caused more than 100 overdoses in just one weekend has been dismantled, authorities in Berks County announced.
"Operation SmackDown" was launched in September 2021, when the 101 heroin/fentanyl overdoses overwhelmed Reading's hospital systems and left three victims dead and the rest with life-threatening symptoms, Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams said at a press conference.
A leading addiction doctor called the overdoses an "outright poisoning," Adams said. The symptoms caused low heart rate and high blood pressure, making NARCAN ineffective against the drugs, officials said.
Adams said the overdoses are what pushed authorities to identify the ultimate sources of the drugs, identifying Aurelio C. Sanchez, or Reading, as the ringleader of the operation. Three other points of distribution were identified, Adams said.
Detectives carried out raids of the locations, arresting dealers and seizing the tainted heroin in two days. The investigation continued and found an organization that was selling large quantities of heroin, also the source responsible for the tainted heroin identified in September, officials said.
Detectives identified twenty-three suspects that were active members of the organization and seven locations in Berks County that were utilized as points of distribution. As a result, search warrants were served, and numerous suspects were taken into custody.
A substantial amount of drugs with a street value of approximately $500,000, three firearms, and a large amount of cash believed to be the proceeds from drug sales were seized, Adams said.
The takedown was a joint effort between the Berks County DA's office, Reading police, PA State Police, and the DEA.
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