Cops: Dealer gave free heroin samples to undercover officers

Some of the heroin and cash that SEPTA police say was found on an alleged drug dealer after he offered undercover officers free samples in Kensington on Monday.

An industrious drug dealer who was handing out free samples of heroin Monday morning in Kensington allegedly offered two undercover SEPTA police officers a free taste of his product.

In return, the officers gave the dealer a set of handcuffs, said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III.

"From what I understand, he was very surprised," Nestel said.

The alleged dealer, identified by police as Angel Rivera, 22, of Philadelphia, was taken into custody and charged with possession with the intent to deliver and related offenses. Police said Rivera had 22 bags of heroin and a couple of hundred dollars in cash on him when he was taken into custody.

In epicenters of the heroin trade in Philadelphia — like Kensington and Allegheny Avenues, where this encounter occurred — some dealers hand out free sample bags of heroin to potential customers like they're pretzel bites or perfume.

"Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon occurrence that the dealers will occasionally give out samples to get the buyers to frequent them, especially if they have a new product out," Nestel said.

The two SEPTA officers were dressed in grungy clothes and had just gotten off at the Allegheny Station of the El when they were approached by Rivera around 10:30 a.m., Nestel said.

"The guy approaches them and says, 'Looks like you're looking for something. How about a sample?' " Nestel said. "He gives them each a sample and they arrest him." The samples, about the size of dime bags, field-tested positive for heroin, he said.

Nestel said SEPTA police are giving the area near Kensington and Allegheny Avenues special attention under a new initiative with the Philadelphia Police 24th District to establish a safe corridor at the notorious drug corner. Uniformed SEPTA officers are stationed on the corners and plainclothes SEPTA officers are working in and near the station, Nestel said. 

"We're trying to help with police visibility in that particular area," he said.

Undercover SEPTA officers are typically spotters for quality-of-life ride offenses, like smoking and fare evasion, but sometimes they'll encounter something more serious, like a robbery or a drug deal, Nestel said.

By 6 p.m. Monday, less than eight hours after he allegedly offered free heroin to two undercover officers, Rivera posted his $5,000 bail and was released from custody, according to court records.