Synthetic marijuana ring used materials from China

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BERKS COUNTY, Pa. – Berks County and Homeland Security officials announce the bust of a major drug ring trafficking in synthetic marijuana. The alleged ring leader, arrested in 2014, allegedly continued to run the trafficking operation from his prison jail cell.

On Thursday, March 23, members of the Reading Police Vice Unit and Patrol Division, Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents and the Berks County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force conducted an early morning round-up of several suspects and simultaneously served nine search warrants on six homes, one garage and two storage units throughout Berks County.  These suspects were wanted for various violations of the PA Controlled Substances Act, specifically delivery and manufacturing of K-2 (synthetic marijuana).  A total of seventy law enforcement officers participated in the operation.

The suspects were a close knit organization that was led by Eric Cintron. On August 20, 2013, Eric Cintron was initially arrested and charged by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office with corrupt organizations, possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of controlled substances, risking a catastrophe, dealing in unlawful activities and criminal conspiracy.  Cintron later plead guilty to criminal conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute and corruption organizations.  Eric Cintron is currently being held in a State Prison.

Subsequently, detectives believed that Eric Cintron never stopped this operation and continued to orchestrate his illegal operation while incarcerated.

In September of 2016, agents from HSI learned that suspicious packages where being shipped to the Reading area that contained the chemical compound FUB-AMB.  FUB-AMB is a Schedule I Controlled Substance that is utilized to manufacture synthetic marijuana. As a result, a joint investigation began.

During this investigation, detectives and agents conducted extensive surveillance and made numerous undercover purchases of synthetic marijuana. The investigation revealed that the suspects were having the controlled substances shipped from China to locations in Reading. These chemicals were then manufactured into thousands of pounds of synthetic marijuana for distribution throughout Berks County and beyond.

Sealed search warrants were obtained from a Berks County Court of Common Pleas Judge and those warrants were served at the following locations:

  1. 526 Lancaster Avenue, 2nd Floor Apt., Reading.
  2. 1252 Perkiomen Avenue, 1st Floor Apt. and Basement, Reading.
  3. 232 Exeter Street (garage), Reading.
  4. 738 Windsor Street, Reading.
  5. 2909 Wyoming Drive, Apt., Sinking Spring, Berks County
  6. 2036 Alsace Road, Bldg #16, Apt. C, Reading.
  7. 203 Endlich Avenue, Mt. Penn, Berks County.
  8. One storage unit, 2200 block of North 5th Street, Reading.
  9. One storage unit, 1000 block of Morgantown Road, Reading.

Additionally, bank accounts and several vehicles were included in the searches.

The following items were seized:

  1. Approximately twelve (12) kilos of FUB-AMB (Schedule I controlled substance used to manufacture synthetic marijuana K-2)
  2. Three-hundred pounds (300 lbs.) of Damiana Leaf (used to manufacture synthetic marijuana K2)
  3. Four (4) – one gallon canisters of acetone (used to manufacture synthetic marijuana K2)
  4. Four (4) handguns w/ magazine and ammunition
  5. Approximately $2.4 million dollars in U.S. Currency believed to be the proceeds of sales
  6. Money Counter
  7. Numerous working cell phones
  8. Security monitor & camera, night vision binoculars (used for counter surveillance)
  9. Numerous documents and ID pertaining to the drug suspects
  10. Drug-related paraphernalia associated with the manufacturing and distribution of synthetic marijuana
  11. Fourteen vehicles use by the drug organization for the distribution of synthetic marijuana

Arrest warrants were issued by Magisterial District Judge Kowalski and served upon the following six suspects:

  1. Eric Cintron, 36, Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute. Served with an arrest warrant today.
  1. Edwin Mendez, 34. 526 Lancaster Avenue, Reading. Arrested on Thursday March 23. Bail was set at $1 million. Committed to Berks County Jail System (BCJS)
  1. Jose Cintron, 38 203 Endlich Avenue, Mt. Penn. Arrested on Thursday March 23. Bail was set at $1 million. Committed to Berks County Jail System (BCJS)
  1. Miguel Gomez, 56 1252 Perkiomen Avenue, 1st floor apt., Reading. Arrested on March 23. Bail was set at $1 million. Committed to Berks County Jail System (BCJS)
  1. Joel Solis, 34, 319 Hollenbach Street, Reading. Arrested on March 23, 2017, Bail was set at $1 million. Committed to Berks County Jail System (BCJS)
  1. Destiny Plaza, 28, 526 Lancaster Avenue, Reading. Arrested on Saturday, March 25. Bail was set at $250,000 and has since been posted.“Synthetic drugs like K2 pose a significant health risk to those who use and abuse them.  The arrests and drug seizures that resulted from this collaborative investigation deal a serious blow to a large scale drug trafficking ring that pumped dangerous synthetic narcotics into our communities. ” said William Walker, acting deputy special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the Berks County District Attorney’s Office and Reading Police Department to purge the streets of dangerous criminals who import and distribute narcotics in our communities.”CHARGES against the six suspects include: Possession of FUB-AMB (Synthetic Marijuana) (Schedule I Controlled Substance), Possession With Intent to Deliver FUB-AMB (Synthetic Marijuana) (Schedule I Controlled Substance, Manufacturing FUB-AMB (Synthetic Marijuana) (Schedule I Controlled Substance), Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Corrupt Organizations and Criminal Conspiracy.