Montco D.A. announces arrests of 32 in drug trafficking rings

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(clockwise from top left) Michael Daly, Douglas Ehrhart, Charles Termine and Angelo Betancourt, Jr.. were the main men of the drug trafficking ring bust. (Handout photos)

To Michael Anthony Daly, detectives said, dealing drugs was like delivering pizza.

"Listen, let me tell you what, I am running around all day," Daly told one client, according to a transcript by detectives of a wiretapped phone call. "I'm like the Domino's guy, 30 minutes or less, or it's free."

To Charles J. Termine, officials said, being a primary supplier of methamphetamine was something to brag about.

"If you're getting your meth in Norristown, you're getting my meth," he said on recorded conversations, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Daly and Termine were allegedly career criminals at the center of overlapping drug rings and a yearlong investigation that began when a detective recognized Daly's voice on a phone call from Colombia.

On Wednesday, Ferman announced their arrests and those of 30 others. From the operation, police said they seized $70,000 worth of methamphetamine, $37,800 of cocaine, $44,000 in cash, eight guns, and five vehicles.

The drug rings trafficked heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine primarily in Norristown, according to officials, but also around the Philadelphia region. Ferman said detectives prioritized the investigation - which included getting critical information from the family member of an addict - because of a rise in heroin-related overdoses in Montgomery County.

The drugs that were seized also included horse tranquilizer, which investigators said had been added to the other drugs as a cutting agent.

"This is toxic in its own right," Ferman said of the tranquilizer.

In January 2014, the Philadelphia division of the Drug Enforcement Administration contacted Montgomery County detectives with information about wiretapped calls from Colombia to Norristown.

The detective in Montgomery County who listened knew the men's voices because he had investigated both of them, separately, in the 1990s.

The two men - Daly, one of those now charged with leading the Norristown drug ring, and Juan Carlos Jaramillo-Gonzalez - developed a friendship in federal prison while serving sentences for drug convictions, detectives said.

Jaramillo-Gonzalez was deported to Colombia in 2002, according to an affidavit filed by Montgomery County detectives in the trafficking case. He was out of federal prison on probation and arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. He was wiretapped in 2013 and 2014 by the Colombian national police, who told officials in Pennsylvania that he was sending heroin from Colombia to Indiana and Norristown.

Though investigators do not know whether Daly had received shipments of drugs from Colombia, the wiretapped conversations allowed them to look into his activity and work with local informants.

Months later, the investigation widened.

Detectives in Bucks County had alerted Montgomery County investigators to a different drug operation in which Norristown residents were selling crystal methamphetamine. Detectives later learned from phone records that the second drug ring was connected to Daly's.

The investigation also relied on the relative of a drug addict who called the District Attorney's Office in October in search of help.

"This was someone who was devastated by the addiction that someone he loved was suffering from," Ferman said.

She put the caller in touch with detectives. He had enough information to identify Douglas James Ehrhart as one of the dealers supplying his relative. That tip helped Montgomery County detectives build a wiretap investigation.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Daly was getting drugs from Angelo M. Betancourt of Philadelphia. Detectives said Betancourt met Daly and Jaramillo-Gonzalez in federal prison. Phone conversations and text messages, detailed in the more-than-300-page affidavit, suggest that Daly distributed the drugs to customers.

The overlapping drug ring was led by Termine and Ehrhart, both of Norristown. Ehrhart purchased crystal meth through Betancourt and Daly, detectives said.

The men also helped each other. According to the affidavit, Daly offered advice and met with Termine and Ehrhart after some of their drugs were seized and their homes were searched.

In December, police seized 10 ounces of crystal meth that had arrived in a shipment from California for Termine and Ehrhart. They were not yet charged as the investigation continued, but detectives said the loss of the drug supply effectively put the men out of business.

Wiretaps then showed that Daly and Betancourt feared that Ehrhart might be cooperating with police. Detectives became concerned about Ehrhart's safety and arrested Daly and Betancourt on Jan. 23, before Daly planned to deliver drugs to Ehrhart.

The two men were held on drug charges but were arraigned on new felony charges Wednesday as the rest of the arrests were made in the case.

All four alleged leaders were arraigned Wednesday afternoon in District Court in Norristown and are being held at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Judge Francis J. Lawrence set Betancourt's bail at $499,000. Termine, Daly, and Ehrhart are each being held on $500,000 bail.

Several other suspects tied to the drug rings were also arraigned Wednesday afternoon. Others were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

The investigation, called "Operation Snow and Ice Removal," also included officials from Bucks County, Delaware County, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police.


BY THE NUMBERS

12.5

ounces of crystal methamphetamine seized in drug bust.

20

ounces of cocaine.

8

firearms.

10

cellphones.

5

vehicles.

44K

cash and bank accounts.

3,000

heroin bags.

6

scales.


lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116 @Lmccrystal