NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

John “Thomas” Underwood, formerly of Gloucester City, UPS Driver, Vietnam War Army Veteran, GCHS Alumnus
EPA Recognizes James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona, PA

Leader of NE Philly Heroin Ring and Associates Arrested and Charged with Drug Trafficking

Four additional defendants were also charged in Atlantic County, New Jersey in a related investigation

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Juan Caceres, 30, of Elkins Park, PA; Jose M. Suarez-Mendosa, 29, of Philadelphia, PA; Jerson David Diaz, 31, of

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Philadelphia, PA; Ezequiel Regalado-Rosario, 45, of Philadelphia, PA; Ramcel Duarte-Rodriguez, 21, of Philadelphia, PA, and Juan Francisco Regalado-Ferreras, 27, of Philadelphia, PA, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint on charges of possession with intent to distribute various amounts of heroin as associates of the Caceres drug trafficking organization.

During the execution of simultaneous search warrants in June, Caceres, Regalado-Rosario, Duarte-Rodriguez and Regalado-Ferreras were arrested at a residence in the 1000 block of Saint Vincent Street in Northeast Philadelphia and charged with possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. At the same time, Suarez-Mendosa and Diaz were arrested at a residence in the 2900 block of Teesdale Street, also in Northeast Philadelphia, and charged with possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.

All six defendants made their initial appearances in federal court last week. Caceres – the ring-leader of the group – Diaz, Suarez-Mendosa, and Regalado-Rosario were all detained by the court until trial. Duarte-Rodriguez and Regalado-Ferreras will appear in court for their detention hearings on Friday, June 26. A seventh defendant, Braulizabeth Reyes-Villanueva (identified as Person #1 in the criminal complaint), 31, of Philadelphia, PA, was charged elsewhere with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, was arrested separately and also made an appearance in court last week.

In a related investigation, four other defendants, Tennille Lee, 43, of Atlantic City, NJ; Ebony Chapman, 40, of Absecon, NJ; Andrew Prater, 38, of Atlantic City, NJ; and Theresa Lockhart, 28, of Millville, NJ; were charged elsewhere by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and arrested by authorities in New Jersey in June as part of a joint investigation with members of the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Task Force.

According to the federal criminal complaint, from February until June 2020, the defendants operated a drug trafficking scheme to package, store and distribute large amounts of heroin in Philadelphia, PA; Elkins Park, PA; Atlantic City, NJ; and other locations in the region. During the execution of the Teesdale Street and Saint Vincent Street search warrants, agents discovered a large-scale heroin packaging operation at the residence on Saint Vincent Street, including tens of thousands of packets of heroin, grinders, scales and other paraphernalia, as well as a loaded Glock 42 firearm with an additional box of 50 rounds. Agents also found two children, approximately two months old and four years old, apparently living in the drug-infested residence.

During the investigation, agents allegedly observed Reyes-Villanueva and Caceres supplying Lee with packages of drugs on multiple occasions in an alleyway behind the Teesdale Street residence. Lee would transport the drugs from Philadelphia in her vehicle to a stash house in Atlantic City. From there, Lee, Chapman, Prater and Lockhart were also allegedly involved in a drug distribution conspiracy in New Jersey working for a different organization. According to the complaint, Reyes-Villanueva is romantically linked with Caceres and is a major facilitator in his organization with multiple vehicles used by members of the group registered in her name.

“As alleged in the criminal complaint, Caceres and his cohorts pumped huge quantities of deadly heroin onto the streets of our city and region,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Drug trafficking is an inherently dangerous business that preys on individuals in addiction and puts innocent bystanders, like the two young children found living in one of these drug dens, in jeopardy. Our office is determined to work with our law enforcement partners at all levels and in other jurisdictions to investigate and convict those who are poisoning our community with deadly drugs and put them where they belong -- behind bars.”

“Those who profit from drug trafficking have no regard for the incredible damage they’re doing to our communities,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “As alleged, Caceres and his crew pushed vast amounts of heroin into Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and surrounding areas, a region hit hard by the opioid epidemic. The FBI will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to take drug traffickers and their dangerous product off the streets.”

“This investigation proves once again that drug traffickers do not allow state lines to interfere with their illegal operations,” said Susan A. Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s New Jersey Division. “It is the mission of law enforcement at all levels to keep our communities safe. Those choosing to distribute these deadly narcotics need to know we will go wherever the investigation takes us to carry out that mission.”

“Atlantic County is a part of the epi-center of the opioid epidemic in this country,” said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner. “This operation is exactly the type of collaborative effort that we envisioned when the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office sought to be included in the Liberty Mid-Atlantic High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  The ability to work with multiple agencies to disrupt the illegal activity of large drug trafficking organizations and make our community safer is our mission every day.” 

If convicted, the defendants arrested in the Teesdale residence, Suarez-Mendosa and Diaz, face a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison, and the defendants arrested in the Saint Vincent Street residence, Caceres, Regalado-Rosario, Duarte-Rodriguez and Regaldo-Ferreras, as well as Reyes-Villanueva, face a maximum possible sentence of lifetime imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Philadelphia Division, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office Detectives – Violent Crime Unit, and the Cheltenham Police Department, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Newark Division – Atlantic City Resident Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration Atlantic City office and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Labrum.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.