Tainted Heroin Is Seen In S. Jersey

Posted: February 23, 1996

The first evidence has been revealed in South Jersey of the potentially lethal batch of bad heroin that has killed at least five people and sickened others in Philadelphia and suburban Pennsylvania.

Voorhees police say a man and his wife suffered an overdose at their home of what appeared to be tainted heroin, similar to that sold under several street names in Pennsylvania.

Linda Mercoli, 37, of the first block of Briarwood Drive, called 911 shortly after 11 a.m. Monday to request an ambulance because she and her husband, Nello Mercoli, 44, were ill, said Lt. Jack Prettyman.

The couple were rushed to West Jersey Hospital-Voorhees, where Nello Mercoli spent the night. His wife was treated and released. Nello Mercoli is listed in the American Business Information U.S. Business Directory as manager of Admiral Lounge & Liquors in the 2200 block of Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden.

Police said the couple had ingested heroin sold on the street under the name ``Death Shot.'' It is believed to be heroin mixed with Scopaliamine, a plant extract that is used for motion sickness.

Voorhees Detective Robert Woolston obtained a search warrant for the Mercoli home on Monday afternoon and recovered more than a dozen bags of heroin and a half-ounce of marijuana. Police say they also found several hypodermic needles, rolling paper and pipes in the house.

Nello Mercoli was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin, being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, and failing to report to authorities that he had drugs in his possession. He was also charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Linda Mercoli was also charged with multiple drug violations. The couple were released on summonses pending a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

Authorities said they were unable to determine how or where the Mercolis had obtained the drugs.

Deaths and illnesses from the bad drugs began to get the attention of local health and law-enforcement officials on Monday. At least 22 people in Philadelphia fell ill that day when they injected heroin sold under the brand name of ``Polo.''

Four of the confirmed deaths from the bad heroin were reported within a 2 1/2-hour period Tuesday night in Philadelphia. A fifth man died of an overdose early Tuesday morning in suburban Downingtown.

Authorities are trying to locate the dealers who are believed to be selling the bad drugs.

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