Two Dominicans were using a twin house across Ryan Avenue from Austin Meehan Middle School to store and package wholesale quantities of heroin, according to a grand jury indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Dec. 2.
Federal agents and Philadelphia police raided the residence at 7563 Battersby St. on Oct. 22 and allegedly found 12 kilograms of heroin hidden in secret compartments inside furniture, a 9-millimeter Kel-Tech Luger handgun loaded with seven live rounds and $79,286 in cash. Luis Manuel Gomez Rodriguez, 37, and Jose Antonio Rosario Reyes, 55, were both arrested at the scene. The defendants are both citizens of the Dominican Republic who maintained Philadelphia residency. Rosario Reyes lived at the Battersby Street address while Gomez Rodriguez lived elsewhere.
“According to the indictment, the named defendants were members of a drug organization that received, prepared and packaged multi-kilogram quantities of heroin for street sale and distribution in Philadelphia,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in a printed news release. “The organization used the premises … as a stash house for concealing and storing kilogram quantities of heroin, as a location to cut, prepare and package heroin for street sale in Philadelphia, as well as a place to store proceeds from drug sales and to maintain records from those sales.”
The four-count indictment provided details of three dates during which investigators surveilled the Battersby property. On Oct. 9, they allegedly saw Gomez Rodriguez arrive at the house with a bag containing a strainer used in the preparation and packaging of heroin. Rosario Reyes greeted him there.
About 12 hours later, the investigators allegedly saw Gomez Rodriguez exit the house, unlock a white van and place a large cardboard box inside the van before driving away.
Gomez Rodriguez visited the house again briefly on Oct. 14, according to the indictment. On Oct. 22, Gomez Rodriguez allegedly arrived at the house in the same van and exited the passenger side carrying a bag. Investigators obtained a search warrant and raided the house that day.
Both defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin, possession of more than one kilogram of heroin with intent to distribute, possession of more than one kilogram of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
If convicted, both defendants face up to life in prison and mandatory minimums of 15 years in prison and fines of more than $30 million. ••