MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A Colwyn man already serving state time for heroin distribution is now facing a charge of drug delivery resulting in death, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum 20 to 40 year sentence. In one instance he is believed to have swapped bags of heroin for a PlayStation, according to officials.

Raheem Harper, 28, of the 400 block of Fourth Street, is also charged with four counts of delivery of a controlled substance, an ungraded felony; unlawful use of a communication facility, a felony of the third degree; tampering with physical evidence, a second-degree misdemeanor; and involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor, in the death of a 28-year-old Chester man in April 2017.

Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland said the victim, whose name was not revealed, was discovered at a residence on the 1500 block of Edgemont Avenue April 21.

He was pronounced dead at the scene with a hypodermic needle and the remains of a bag of heroin stamped “Hurricane” on the floor beside him, according to Copeland. Five additional bags, all stamped in the same manner, were allegedly found in the victim’s pocket.

Delaware County Medical Examiner Dr. Frederic N. Hellman determined the cause of death was multiple drug intoxication, specifically for heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be fatal in extremely small doses.

“Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic alternative to morphine and is used to treat pain in the terminally ill,” said Copeland. “The combination of fentanyl with heroin increases the potency of both drugs to a deadly level and sadly this often leads to immediate death.”

Harper was also arrested April 21, 2017, in possession of 18 other baggies stamped “Hurricane” during a routine traffic stop in Tinicum, according to a release from the county.

He posted bail in that case but was rearrested after another traffic stop in Clifton Heights with more than 1,500 bags of heroin on May 6, 2017, the release says. Copeland said the 1,500 bags in the second arrest did not bear the “Hurricane” stamp and did not contain fentanyl.

Online court records indicate Harper entered an open guilty plea to possession with intent to deliver before Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge John Capuzzi on Nov. 17 and was sentenced to five and a half to 12 years in state prison with seven years of probation.

An ongoing investigation into the victim’s death allegedly revealed text messages indicating Harper had delivered the deadly fentanyl-laced heroin that killed the victim. Harper had allegedly met with the victim on April 6, April 9, April 11 and finally on April 19, according to investigators.

Copeland said the victim had just come out of rehab months before his death. She said the man paid for the first delivery by giving Harper a PlayStation 4 and paid amounts of cash starting around $40 in subsequent deliveries.

“That’s what it came down to,” said Copeland. “On one occasion he trades him for a PlayStation, on several occasions, $40 worth of drugs. And he lost his life over that – over $40 worth of heroin. It’s a sad day.”

Copeland thanked the victim’s family for their patience as the investigation played out, and praised the work of Chester Detective Cpl. Steven Byrne and Delaware County Detective Timothy Deery for tracking down Harper as the alleged seller.

“(Harper) preyed upon the victim’s weakness and desperation, taking advantage of his struggle with addiction,” Copeland said. “In this case, Raheem Harper repeatedly delivered drugs for profit in exchange for another man’s life.”

She noted this is the second such case her office has announced within a week. Alexandria Santa Barbara, 39, of the 200 block of East Avon Road in Chester, surrendered on charges of drug delivery resulting in death, delivery of a controlled substance and involuntary manslaughter last Tuesday for allegedly selling a Parkside man a $10 bag of heroin that turned out to be pure fentanyl, costing him his life. Copeland said there was no indication the two cases are related beyond the presence of fentanyl in both deaths.

“Drug traffickers should know that when they sell drugs here in Delaware County, they are facing … a statutory maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison,” said Copeland. “We want to make that message clear: We will pursue these charges.”

Copeland said the county has been on the forefront of trying to fight an opioid epidemic, trying to route addicts to treatment services, establishing more than 40 mobile drop boxes for expired medication throughout the county, starting up a Drug Treatment Court and using naloxone to fight overdoses when encountered by first responders. Current naloxone saves are tallied at 1,170, according to Emily Harris, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office.

“We’ve gotten together as a community, as our District Attorney’s office in combination with county council, in combination with our treatment providers, our recovery centers and are trying to find new and innovative ways to deal with the epidemic,” Copeland said. “We’ve teamed up with our law enforcement partners in this and recognize that we will do whatever we need to do to make sure our community members are kept safe.”

Harper, who faces a maximum 60 to 90 years in prison, did not make any comment to reporters as he was led out of the courthouse Monday afternoon. He was remanded to the county prison in Concord pending a preliminary hearing July 9 before Magisterial District Judge Wilden H. Davis.

As of June 4, there had been 69 drug-related deaths in the county this year, 51 of them opioid related, according to Harris. Fentanyl was mentioned in the cause of death 37 times, she said.

comments powered by Disqus