LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa.-- Three Philadelphians are facing charges after police were able to interrupt a "major" movement of fentanyl and heroin.
Eric Moran, 26, Katherine Joubert, 27, and Luis Mercado, 32, are all facing felony possession with intent to deliver and conspiracy charges for their roles in the incident.
All three are in Lancaster County Prison on $2 million bail apiece.
On the night of January 31, the Lancaster County Drug Task Force was able to seize nearly three pounds of heroin in the 1300 block of Lititz Pike in Manheim Township.
The heroin was both in bundles ready for street sale and in bulk form, with the bulk kilogram (about 2 pounds) testing positive as pure fentanyl and the rest as fentanyl-laced heroin.
During the stop, the Drug Task Force was assisted by the spotlight of a National Guard helicopter.
“They actually ended up boxing the vehicles in. There was somewhat of a pursuit so it wasn’t as smooth as we would normally like but everyone was safe and no one was injured,” said Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.
One of the drivers, later identified as Moran, attempted to flee, and nearly struck detectives and other civilians in a parking lot where the deal took place.
The Task Force had information that a major movement of heroin would be happening that night, so they were set up and ready when the suspect vehicles arrived.
The kilogram fentanyl seizure is believed to be the Drug Task Force’s largest – of pure fentanyl - in recent history.
“There is no telling how many people could have been killed by the deadly poisons that are now in police custody rather than on the streets,” Stedman said. “This could be one of the biggest fentanyl seizure we’ve had in this county.
“The distribution would have been widespread and extremely profitable for the traffickers.”
If all the heroin/fentanyl was sold in street quantities (bags or bundles of 10 baggies), its value could have exceeded half a million dollars, detectives estimated.
About 9,800 bags were branded with a “CATCH UP” stamp.
Stedman said an arrest involving fentanyl on this scale brings "mixed feelings."
“That’s great, that means we got this off the street. That means someone’s not going to die, multiple people are maybe not going to die but the bad news is we got this much off the street and it’s coming this way,” said Stedman.
The investigation is ongoing, and additional searches were conducted since the arrests, including investigative work related to the Philadelphia connection.