READING, Pa. (AP) — Eight high-level members of a drug gang blamed for as many as eight homicides in one Pennsylvania community have been indicted on federal drug-trafficking and weapons offenses, prosecutors announced Thursday.
A well-armed drug gang called “Trinidad DTG” distributed large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in the Reading area, prosecutors said. Its alleged leader, Jesus Feliciano-Trinidad, 29, and two others named in the federal indictment were already behind bars awaiting trial on state charges, including first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Reading saw 21 homicides last year — the most in the city of about 88,000 in more than a decade — and authorities said Trinidad DTG is partly to blame. In the state case, Feliciano-Trinidad is charged with ordering the January 2018 slaying of an associate who failed to follow his orders.
“This has been the most violent drug organization that we have ever encountered,” said Berks County District Attorney John Adams, who was joined at a news conference Thursday by U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia and other law enforcement officials.
Feliciano-Trinidad’s attorney, Jay Nigrini, declined to comment on the allegations other than to say the government must prove its case at trial.
The long-running “Operation Shattered” probe is continuing, and there could be more arrests, McSwain said. It’s part of a crackdown launched by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target drug trafficking, bank robbery, straw weapons purchases and other crimes.
“This past year, frankly, has been hard on this area,” McSwain said. “I want the community to know that the federal authorities are paying attention to this. We are here and we are going to remain here.”
The federal charges could result in life imprisonment for six defendants. The other two face up to 40 years.