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Human Interest - Bensalem Township

Nearby: Kensington Drug Kingpin Gets 19 Years in State Prison for Distributing Narcotics Labeled “Funeral”

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Last Month the United States Attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced a Kensington drug boss to federal prison for almost two decades.

Ricardo Carrion, a.k.a. “PR,” 42, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced to 19 years and four months (or 232 months) in federal prison after being convicted at trial of multiple drug trafficking charges, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute crack and heroin.

The charges stemmed from his leadership role in supplying a drug trafficking organization operating on the 3100 block of Weymouth Street, steps from McPherson Square and just two blocks from the notorious intersection of Kensington & Allegheny Avenues in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

3100 Block of Weymouth Street, Philadelphia
Credit: Google Maps

This case originated from a joint investigation into the scourge of drug trafficking and overdoses in the Kensington area conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Philadelphia Police Department. After a series of search warrants were executed in 2019, the DEA developed information that the defendant was the supplier of narcotics for an organization selling heroin stamped with the word “Funeral” to advertise its potency and lethalness to addicted consumers.

Covert surveillance showed Carrion repeatedly carrying large bags into stash houses. When investigators initiated a traffic stop of a cab in which Carrion was the sole passenger, they recovered a bag containing over 3,300 flip top containers of crack cocaine.  Evidence presented at the September 2021 trial showed that the defendant used code words including “lenta,” which translates to “slow” in English, and “hard cola” to discuss the heroin he ordered for street dealers. Prosecutors also presented evidence that the defendant supplied thousands and thousands of doses of heroin and crack cocaine to this city block from 2018 until the DEA and PPD dismantled his drug operation.

During the trial, Carrion threatened one of the main witnesses against him. After he was convicted and the jury was dismissed, the defendant asked the court for the personal information of the jurors, a request that was immediately denied. During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors presented evidence demonstrating the defendant’s lengthy criminal record and life of drug dealing.

“This years-long drug trafficking enterprise impacted more than just this one block in one neighborhood; it left a path of destruction across Kensington and throughout Philadelphia,” said United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero . “This sentence sends a clear message that, in order to halt the flow of deadly drugs into our communities, our Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to investigating and prosecuting prolific drug dealers pedaling poison to those suffering from addiction.”

“Carrion ran a drug-trafficking organization in the heart of Kensington, an area in Philadelphia that has been so adversely affected by the illicit drug trade.  His drug-trafficking activities were so nefarious that he distributed bags of heroin stamped “Funeral,” said Thomas Hodnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division.  “For his conviction on multiple federal drug charges, Carrion is rightly and deservedly spending the next 20 years of his life in a federal prison cell.”

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. The case was investigated by Drug Enforcement Administration and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jason D. Grenell and Derek E. Hines.

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Health - Bensalem Township

“Laughter is the Best Medicine” Says President of Ezra’s Hope

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Cindy Ritter, president of Ezra’s Hope was on her cell phone early Friday morning teaching herself an array of foreign languages. When she answered. which was not expected since it was just past 7 a.m., an about an hour-long conversation ensued covering the dual sponsored – Laughs for Recovery and Raymour & Flanigan – afternoon sit-down comedy benefit coming up this Saturday, June 22, to support the nonprofit that assists families looking the pain of addiction square in the face.

What better way to raise funds  then with the antidote for pain which is laughter, right?, she said.

No arguing with that sentiment.

Ezra’s Hope helps families that have been affected by addiction in a variety of ways, including food and clothing donations and financial assistance. In past efforts, the nonprofit has provided care packages and gift cards, food, clothing, furniture, and other necessities, and has helped families pay utility bills. “By helping families pick up the pieces from this terrible disease in a positive light, we hope to prevent the same behavior from continuing,” Ritter said.

According to the CDC, more than 110,000 people across the United States lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2023. Of that number, 4,823 were in Pennsylvania.

Ritter said that a lack of manpower and resources in recent years has prevented the nonprofit from hosting any fundraising events.

Ezra’s Hope is holding their first fundraiser since the pandemic. The small volunteer organization is teaming up with two well-known organizations, Laughs For Recovery and Raymour and Flanigan, to host a three-hour comedy show for charity. The nonprofit hopes the event will bring smiles and laughter to the community while also raising awareness to a topic, that’s no laughing matter, addiction.

“Help has been pretty hard to find. The last time Ezra’s Hope held a fundraiser was in September 2019 before Covid-19 shut the world down. Since then, we have been unable to organize any events to help raise the funds necessary to help families in need,” Ritter said.

 

The sit-down comedy show will take place from 2 p.m.to 5 p.m. pm at Raymour and Flannigan’s Oxford Valley location 9 Cabot Blvd East, Langhorne and will feature performances by a number of local comedians.

Several prominent businesses are also showing their support for Ezra’s Hope. The Iron Pigs. Crayola. Longwood Gardens and Chipotle have all made substantial donations to be used for raffles and giveaways during the event, giving some lucky guests a chance to go home with an unforgettable prize.

Master of Ceremonies and Laughs for Recovery founder Eric Todd of Levittown is hoping the surrounding community comes out in a big way, he said. Todd’s been putting on comedy shows for about three years now.

Laughs for Recovery Outdoor Festival 2023

 

Ezra’s Hope was founded in 2017 as an outlet to offer support and education to families that have experienced the loss of a loved one to addiction. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness through education about addiction and making a difference in the lives of those who have felt the impact of its devastating effects. There is Hope for the future!

Click here to purchase tickets for this event.

For more information about Ezra’s Hope, contact Cindy Ritter ezrashope@gmail.com

Submitted:

Laughs for Recovery Comic performing Summer of 2023
Credit: Lower Bucks Source

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Human Interest - Bensalem Township

Neshaminy Mall Sold?

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The announcement came as a bit of surprise, but for months if not longer, there were varying reports Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem was for sale. As of last week, the mall now has a buyer.

A social media post by the Bensalem Economic Development Corporation read, “Hot off the presses! Neshaminy Mall has a buyer! Settlement will occur sometime in the next 30 days with Paramount Realty. We look forward to working with their team and hearing about the new opportunities this sale will bring to our community,” on June 14.

Brookfield Properties put the mall up for sale, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in February.

The 1-million square foot mall sits at the crossroads of Lincoln Highway, Route 1 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Bensalem officials contacted earlier this week about the potential sale did not respond to requests for comment on what the future holds for the brick and mortar edifice.

A Philadelphia Journal Report earlier this year estimated Brookfield could get $25 million for the property.

In June of 2022, then Lower Bucks Source contributor Josh Thompson  visited the mall for a story he was working about its apparent “slow death.”

Opened in 1968, the Neshaminy Mall has hosted stores such as “Boscov’s” and “GameStop”, but over the years, the mall has started to decline in both visitors, and renters. Walking through the mall now is like walking through a ghost town. The AMC theater and Boscov’s are still there, but stores like Macy’s, Friendly’s, and even Rita’s water ice are all gone.

Then and now, it appears the food court is the most frequently visited area in the mall.

The ability to shop online, experts say, is the single biggest contributor to the demise of shopping malls in America.

Calls to Paramount Realty were not immediately returned as of Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: Bensalem’s Josh Thompson contributed to this report. He currently works for the Bensalem School District supporting the educational successes of students with challenges. 

 

 

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Cops, Courts & Fire -Bensalem Township

Bensalem Twp Council To Vote On Volunteer Fire Company Consolidation Monday Night

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Just under two years ago at a Bristol Borough Council meeting, officials were getting an update on the then planned fire company consolidation effort by Steve Reeves,  president of the Bristol Borough Fire Association. At the time, talk of consolidating fire companies in the borough and Bristol Township was a hot topic.

During his presentation Reeves mentioned consolidation talks of the Bensalem fire company volunteer services were also in progress. At the time tidbit was not in the public domain.

Credit: Submitted

Now after two years of planning, the Bensalem Township Council will vote on a resolution to form The Bensalem Volunteer Fire Department at its next meeting Monday night.

If the resolution is passed, the six legacy fire companies, including Cornwells, Eddington, Newport, Nottingham, Trevose, and Union, will be consolidated into one volunteer fire department. This consolidation plan is necessary to ensure adequate fire/emergency response within the township because of reduced membership amongst the current companies, a press release announced late Friday afternoon.

Credit: Submitted

Reeves knew what he was talking about at the time. Lower Bucks Source in the following days reached out to area first responder sources, officials and Bensalem area volunteer firefighters. No one anywhere would go on or off the record. LBS was directed, by Battalion Chief/Fire Marshal Robert Sponheimer, to the Deputy Director of Public Safety Robert Race who politely declined to respond to a request for comment at the time.

Credit: Submitted

Late last year, according to a Lower Bucks Times report, Bensalem officials spoke rather openly about dwindling volunteer numbers.  This led William McVey, director of public safety, to ask for council approval to apply for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant through FEMA, which was subsequently approved in November by council.

This past February the township announced the hiring of Mark Antozzeski as the first career Fire Chief in Bensalem history. He is leading the volunteer fire services, as well as Bensalem Fire Rescue, career staff. McVey told Bensalem Patch.com the hiring was an important piece of the consolidation process.

 

Credit: Submitted

Earlier this month,  Nottingham Fire Department Chief Ron Harris was named the Bensalem Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief as part of the consolidation effort, according to published report. 

Credit: Submitted

Beginning Friday evening, shortly after receiving the Bensalem announcement on the expected consolidation vote, first responder sources Lower Bucks Source contacted said that back in 2022 when first contacted they declined to comment because the topic was sensitive in nature and a real possibility of backlash existed and concerns about “sabotaging” the process were also omnipresent. Those sources again declined to comment on the record.

Consolidation Efforts in Bristol Borough & Bristol Township

In February, Bristol Borough voted to consolidate their volunteer fire services. Prior to that step the borough approved applying for a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grant in the amount of $1.5 to build a new fire house at a yet to be determined location.

As far back as February of 2022, a smaller plan in size and scope was being discussed in Bristol Township involving Newportville Fire Company #1, Third District Fire Company with career fire personnel from the township which came off the heels of  a fire study completed in 2020.  That plan is no longer in play, fire officials say. Third District Fire Chief Howard McGoldrick said it’s a “complete mystery” why Newportville ultimately decided against the discussed move and merger.

” Volunteer fire services in Bucks County are changing right before our eyes” one first responder said last year.

Credit: Submitted

In each of the consolidation efforts, public safety, declining volunteer numbers and increasing costs have been cited repeatedly by officials publicly.

“It’s just not sustainable anymore financially for fire companies, the municipalities they serve, and taxpayers. It’s consolidate or die”, a high ranking first responder source said Friday.

Bensalem Council is expected to pass the resolution with its vote tonight.

Editor’s Note:  Each of the images in this story come from the volunteer fire companies serving Bensalem Township.

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