PHOENIXVILLE — With specific targets set by the Phoenixville Police sergeant in charge of narcotics investigations, 13 suspected drug dealers are now in custody as a part of a joint operation with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and East Pikeland Police.
“Operation Phoenix” netted the 13 arrests along with the seizure of firearms, cash and illegal drugs including heroin, crack cocaine, LSD, marijuana and prescription drugs, according to a release from Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan’s office.
“Operation Phoenix was designed to attack the unholy trinity of drugs, guns and money,” Hogan said. “By taking out street-level drug dealers now, we are preventing thefts, robberies and homicides down the road.”
Hogan praised the collaborative effort between the different agencies within Chester County.
“Early in the year, the district attorney approached us and said, ‘Hey, listen, we’re looking to do a countywide initiative, we’ll fund it and even provide you with manpower,’” said Phoenixville Police Chief William Mossman. “We said, ‘Of course, sure, we’d be happy to.’”
Mossman said the operation ran for four to five months. During that time, evidence was gathered against targets which Sgt. Glenn Eckman had information on as a part of his ongoing efforts in narcotics investigations.
Charges for the defendants were filed May 15 and most of the defendants began answering their charges before a judge within two weeks.
The district attorney’s office announced the full operation in a press release on July 25.
“Street-level dealers are like weeds,” Hogan said. “You have to be constantly vigilant about pulling them out or than can take over your whole garden.”
The list of those arrested included John Lasorda, 21, of Phoenixville; Katrina Perez, 19, of Spring City; Karl Mienzenger, 29, of Phoenixville; Mathew Moyer, 32, of Paoli; Kiya Logan, 40, of Phoenixville; Rachel Nelson, 19, of Pottstown; James Robinson, 22, of Phoenixville; Kyle Johnson, 26, of Phoenixville; Kalin Thomas, 20, of Spring City; Daniel Fell, 22, of Royersford; and John Foulds, 22, of Phoenixville.
Those arrested in “Operation Phoenix” represent a significant diversity, spanning “frequent-flyers” of the criminal justice system to first-time offenders and covering many different demographics.
“In the drug world, it really is this way,” Mossman said of the diversity of the accused. “That really is what we see, not necessarily what the public sees because they see the big inner-city arrests. It literally could be anybody. That’s not surprising from us.”
Mossman said he was part of the county-wide municipal drug task force in the past as a sergeant and helped coordinate similar investigations as far away as Honey Brook.
“We’d do one or two round-ups a year (getting) 100 people at a time,” Mossman said. “This kind of harkens back to those days.”
Such operations take time as police try to use informants or undercover officers to make multiple buys to get extra evidence in case something goes wrong with one.
Additionally, taking their time allows the informants and undercover officers to remain relatively anonymous to the drug pushers.
Mossman said Eckman “carried the ball” on the investigation and did a good job of helping coordinate all the different resources and investigations.
“This was a really a good way for the district attorney’s office to say, ‘Let’s try and initiate like we used to do,’” Mossman said. “We’re always investigating somebody but not to this extent. A lot of times we’ll just get cocaine and pot. This time we get everything.”
Working with a neighboring municipality like East Pikeland, Mossman said that when one of their officers gets an informant or a tip, Eckman makes sure to bring that officer in as much as possible to work alongside him on the case.
“It’s really a great learning experience,” Mossman said.
“I have been in Chester County law enforcement for a long time and I have always been impressed with the cooperation in Chester County that contributes to the betterment of the community,” said East Pikeland Police Chief James Franciscus.
“This was outstanding teamwork by Chester County law enforcement to keep our citizens safe and secure,” Hogan said.