Wiretap law aided drug bust, Montco officials say

Posted: April 09, 2013

Montgomery County officials say a new state wiretapping law helped them take down a "notorious drug dealer" who sold large quantities of marijuana in Norristown and elsewhere.

At a news conference Monday, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman displayed about 50 pounds of marijuana, stacks of cash, two semiautomatic handguns, and numerous cellphones seized last month from Ryan Gavlick and his alleged associates.

Gavlick, 26, of Pottstown, and alleged supplier Jason Bishop, 38, of Philadelphia, were arrested March 8 in Upper Merion, after weeks of wiretaps and surveillance by county narcotics detectives.

Gavlick and Bishop were allegedly conducting a drug deal in the parking lot of the Gulph Mills Apartment Complex on South Henderson Road when they were arrested. Inside Gavlick's truck, authorities said, police found five pounds of marijuana in plastic bags. Bishop ran away - holding $5,100 cash, police said - but was caught.

Police said Gavlick paid Bishop between $1,000 and $1,250 per pound of marijuana.

Also arrested were Phillip Williams, 26, of Norristown, and Jeremy Rotruck, 27, of King of Prussia, who prosecutors say obtained marijuana from Gavlick and sold it on the streets; Woodley J. Baptiste, 63, of Philadelphia, who lived at Bishop's alleged stash house on North 56th Street in West Philadelphia; and Gavlick's girlfriend, Teaira Thompson, 27.

Detectives had been tracking Gavlick, who is also known as "Paul Wall," for eight years as he went from selling grams on the street to trafficking in pounds, Ferman said. Over time he got more sophisticated, Ferman said, switching cellphones frequently and using cars and weapons registered to friends.

Thompson, who lived with Gavlick and is the mother of his son, told a grand jury that she purchased the guns for Gavlick, who because of previous felony convictions is barred from possessing firearms.

According to the district attorney's affidavit, Gavlick used at least 16 different cellphones since April 2008. Thanks to a law passed in December, detectives were able to tap all of Gavlick's phones, rather than having to get a judge's permission for each number.

"If we did not have the target-specific wiretap, we would never have been able to get him in this case," Ferman said.

Gavlick had been arrested seven times since 2005 for drug offenses as well as violent crimes including assault and a shooting. Many of the charges were reduced or dropped because "victim witnesses failed to appear in court," according to the affidavit.

"By beating one case at a time, whether it was by having evidence suppressed or by doing whatever he did to encourage witnesses not to cooperate, he was able to avoid significant consequences," Ferman said.


Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, jparks@philly.com, or on Twitter @JS_Parks.

 

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