Felony Drug Charge Held Against Lansdale Man
Darrelle Fernandez, 27, of East Sixth Street, is charged with felony marijuana distribution from his apartment
A Lansdale resident will face a felony county of delivering and possessing a controlled substance, as well as two additional misdemeanors, when he heads to county court on March 28 for arraignment.
District Judge Harold Borek held all charges over against Darrelle Fernandez, 27, of the unit block of East Sixth Street, Lansdale, at a Thursday morning preliminary hearing.
In addition to the above felony charge, Fernandez faces a misdemeanor charge of possessing a controlled substance and a misdemeanor charge of possession with intent to distribute drug paraphernalia, police said.
It was after four concerned citizen complaints, subsequent surveillance and two marijuana purchases from a confidential informant that police executed a search warrant at Fernandez’s home, where he resides with his wife, Elyse Fernandez.
Seized in the search were two ounces of marijuana, a digital scale, hundreds of news Ziplock-brand baggies, $626 in cash and ledgers containing detailed drug sale transactions, according to court documents.
Fernandez has been free on bail since Dec. 19, when he posted the required $25,000 cash bail.
During the preliminary hearing, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Heather Levandoski called Lansdale Police Officer Chad Bruckner to the stand. Bruckner testified he has been a Lansdale cop for three years, and has completed more than 50 drug investigations and more than 40 investigations dealing with criminal informants.
Fernandez’s defense attorney Demetri Braynin objected to Bruckner as an expert in drug investigations, saying he has only been in training for two years and three months with the borough narcotics enforcement team.
Borek overruled Braynin’s objection, saying that Bruckner is qualified due to more than 100 hours of drug investigation training in the Commonwealth.
Bruckner said it was his opinion that Fernandez was “involved in illegal distribution of marijuana” due to the amount of drugs seized.
“During two controlled purchases, Darrelle Fernandez was seen on purchases coming from his residence and meeting the criminal informant at that time,” Bruckner said.
During a cross examination, Braynin asked how many officers were with Bruckner during the controlled purchases.
“I was assisted by other officers. Two or three is the normal protocol,” Bruckner said.
Braynin also attempted to establish where Bruckner was during the surveillance, using a printout of the area from Google Maps.
Borek prevented Braynin from doing so, saying it was not relevant to the prima facia proceeding.
Bruckner said six officers executed the search warrant on Fernandez’s home. He said officers set up a perimeter around the home and entered through the front door.
Braynin asked if there was a second exit door. Bruckner said there was one at the rear of the home.
“Can you say for sure no one left through the back door?” asked Braynin.
“For sure, nobody left,” Bruckner said.
He said it took officers 15 seconds to walk from their car to the front door, and about four minutes to set up the perimeter.
He said no one ran or escaped from the home.
“His wife was understandably nervous, but she ran into the kitchen,” he said.
“No one had the opportunity to escape?” asked Braynin.
“Yes,” said Bruckner.
Braynin asked Borek to dismiss the possession with intent to distribute felony charge, and keep the remaining misdemeanors.
Levandoski argued all charges remain, due to the amount of drugs seized, the ledger found during the search, the number of complaints and the controlled purchase.
Braynin said the concerned citizens never witness any transactions.
“For the purpose of prima facia, with the observations and circumference of evidence, I will hold the charges as it states,” Borek said.
Here’s details of what led to Fernandez’s arrest.
Since May 2010, Lansdale Police have received numerous complaints of suspicious activity in the first floor apartment on the unit block of E. Sixth Street, according to the court affidavit.
The suspicious activity was ongoing and numerous citizens reported it could be drug related, according to court documents.
“We learned Darrelle Fernandez is involved in drug trafficking,” stated the court document.
On May 14, 2010, a concerned citizen reported a lot of people coming and going from a first floor apartment on the unit block of East Sixth Street, according to court documents.
The document stated that oddly enough, most of the vehicle and foot traffic occur at night and each person stays for a short period of time and leaves.
On Jan. 5, 2011, a second concerned citizen called police to report suspicious activity in the area of East Sixth Street and North Chestnut Street, according to court documents.
On multiple occasions, subjects would arrive in the area and park their vehicles along the fence line on North Chestnut Street, between East Sixth Street and East Seventh Street, according to court documents.
This second citizen said the driver of each vehicle would call someone on the phone and then exit his or her car and walk up the alley, according to court documents.
Moments later, the driver would appear from the alley, get in the car and leave, according to court documents.
The concerned citizen believed the occupants of the vehicles go in the rear of the home on the unit block of East Sixth Street, according to the affidavit.
On June 14, 2011, a third concerned citizen reported the first floor apartment has people residing in it that may be involved in drug dealing, according to court documents.
The tenants of the apartment get a lot of vehicle traffic arriving at the home throughout the night on a regular basis, according to the court documents.
The documents state that the people who arrive are younger drivers who park at the corner of North Chestnut and East Sixth streets and walk to the home.
The subjects stay for 10 minutes and leave, court documents state. Due to the brevity, the concerned citizen believed the activity is “business related” and could be drug related, according to court documents.
On July 11, 2011, police responded to a call of a suspicious circumstance in the area of East Sixth Street and North Chestnut Street.
A fourth concerned citizen reported to Montgomery County radio that he or she witnessed a drug transaction, according to court documents.
A Honda sedan entered the area and parked in front of the home on the unit block of East Sixth Street, according to court documents. The car was occupied by two younger males, according to the affidavit.
The driver got out of the car and entered the home. Five minutes later, the driver exited the apartment and got into the Honda, according to court documents.
The citizen saw the driver had the passenger a small plastic bag and the Honda left the scene, according to court documents.
During the fourth week in November 2011, police met with a criminal informant.
The informant said an Asian male named Darrelle Fernandez is selling marijuana out of the apartment, according to court documents, and that he lives there with his wife.
The informant told police Fernandez allegedly keeps marijuana in his bedroom and carries two to four ounces at a time, according to court documents.
“Through an investigation, the actor involved in conducting illegal sales was identified as Darrelle Fernandez,” states the court documents.
Police conducted surveillance of the home. Police reported numerous vehicles coming and going from the apartment during the nighttime hours, according to court documents. This indicated drug activity due to the short duration of visits, according to court documents.
Police had the informant make two purchases of marijuana from Fernandez, court documents state.
A search warrant was executed Dec. 17, with police seizing two ounces of marijuana, five pipes and smoking devices, $626 in cash and ledgers with recorded history of sales and profits, according to court documents.