NORRISTOWN — A Pottstown man is on his way to state prison after he admitted to his role in the overdose death of another man who was found dead in a vehicle on a parking lot of an apartment complex in the borough.
Javier Esteban Velez, 24, of the unit block of North Franklin Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to 4 to 8 years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drug delivery resulting in death in connection with the Oct. 29, 2019, fatal overdose of 38-year-old Matthew A. Surbrook.
Other charges of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
The sentence was imposed by Judge William R. Carpenter.
Assistant District Attorney Evan Correia prosecuted the case. Defense lawyer Thomas C. Egan III represented Velez.
The investigation was conducted by Pottstown Police Officer Andrew Licwinko, of the department’s Community Response Unit, and specially-sworn county Detective John Wright.
The investigation began about 12:53 p.m. Oct. 29, 2019, when Pottstown police responded with Goodwill Ambulance to the 400 block of Upland Street, in the Upland Village complex, for an unresponsive male in a parked vehicle, according to the criminal complaint filed by Licwinko and Wright.
Police found Surbrook sitting in the driver's seat of his gray Nissan Rogue and he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the arrest affidavit. A subsequent autopsy determined that Surbrook died from a lethal dose of fentanyl found in his system.
Inside the vehicle, police found a rolled up one-dollar bill, “commonly used for snorting illegal narcotics,” and a torn blue wax bag commonly used to package heroin/fentanyl. Additionally, police found three blue wax bags filled with a white powdery substance in the victim’s pants pocket and a blue wax bag containing white powder in a coin compartment of the vehicle.
“We are aware that these types of wax bags are commonly used for packaging heroin/fentanyl,” Licwinko and Wright wrote in court documents.
Video surveillance obtained from the area showed that Surbrook arrived at the location at 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 and never left his vehicle before being found dead by police the next day.
Investigators also seized Surbrook’s cell phone and the ensuing investigation revealed that Surbrook arranged to purchase heroin from Velez on Oct. 28. The drug buy and delivery was arranged through cell phone texts and ended at 9:19 p.m., with the victim texting "here” to Velez, according to court documents.
Investigators then assumed control of Surbrook’s phone and initiated a text message communication with Velez on Oct. 29 and arranged an undercover purchase of two bags of heroin from Velez, according to court documents.
When Velez arrived at the meet location and approached undercover detectives, he was arrested and 16 plain blue wax baggies containing a white powdery substance resembling heroin/fentanyl were found on his person, according to the arrest affidavit.
“The bags seized from Velez were plain blue wax bags similar to the bag recovered from Surbrook’s death scene,” Licwinko and Wright alleged in court documents.
A forensic analysis of the blue wax bags recovered on Surbrook’s person and in his car determined they contained fentanyl.
“We are aware that fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is commonly added to heroin to increase its potency or be disguised as highly potent heroin,” Licwinko and Wright alleged.
Of the 16 baggies found on Velez when he was arrested, 11 contained fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives; two contained fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine; two contained fentanyl and cocaine; and one contained fentanyl and methamphetamine, court documents indicate.
In a statement to investigators after his arrest, Velez admitted to dealing heroin to Surbrook on the evening of Oct. 28 in Pottstown prior to Surbrook’s death. Velez allegedly told detectives that he believed he sold four bags of heroin to Surbrook for $40. Velez also admitted to selling heroin to Surbrook on multiple prior occasions, according to court papers.
At the time of Velez’s arrest District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said drug dealers “peddling their poison should think twice about doing so in Montgomery County.”
“If someone dies and we can prove who provided the drugs to them, the dealer is on the hook for homicide,” Steele said at the time. “As long as drug dealers continue to peddle their deadly poison in Montgomery County, our law enforcement personnel will seek to hold them accountable for these deaths.”