Police arrested four people and seized 70 marijuana plants valued at more than $100,000 from an Exeter Township house Monday morning, capping a yearlong investigation, authorities said.
The four were taken into custody after township police and members of the Berks County Emergency Response Team raided the house in the 900 block of Schoffers Road about 6 a.m., investigators said.
Arrested were William E. Mourar Jr., 48; his son William III, 18; and Damien S. Engle, 21, all of whom live in the house; and Rachael A. Bostelle, 21, of Fairless Road in Exeter.
All four were charged with felony drug offenses and conspiracy. They were awaiting arraignment late Monday in Reading Central Court.
Police searched the house and found marijuana plants in various stages of maturity, along with materials - including lamps and ventilation equipment - commonly used in indoor marijuana operations, Exeter police Chief Christopher L. Neidert said.
Neidert said the emergency response unit, which he commands, helped because of concern that the occupants might be armed. However, he said no weapons were found.
Police gave this account:
Officers knocked on the door, and when no one answered, the emergency response team forced its way inside.
The occupants surrendered by 6:20 a.m. Members of the response team went room to room making sure no one else was in the house.
No one was injured.
The plants were found growing mainly in soil-filled, 5-gallon plastic buckets, and plastic bags containing harvested marijuana were found in a safe.
Investigators also found a large number of prescription pills, including Adderall - a stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorder - and oxycodone, a painkiller.
Investigators had not determined if the pills were being sold illegally.
County detectives helped police identify the drugs.
Lt. Leon Domsic, who supervises the county detectives narcotics unit, said many of the plants were not ready for harvest.
"This could be worth quite a bit of money out on the open market," he said.
Neighbors watched the raid from nearby.
"We're relieved it finally happened," one woman said.
She said neighbors had reported their suspicions about the house to police, saying they often heard banging noises from evening to early morning.
"There were so many people who would come and go," the woman added. "It's always a telltale sign when it's early in the morning and the lights are all on and there's all that racket."
Exeter Sgt. Michael Bailey, who oversaw the investigation, said police suspected marijuana was being sold from the house more than a year ago, but the investigation started to take shape within the last year.
He said police recently gathered enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. He declined to be more specific.
At a press conference later Monday in the township building, Neidert and First Assistant District Attorney M. Theresa Johnson said the raid was an example of cooperation between county and local law enforcement.
They said one reason District Attorney John T. Adams formed the countywide drug task force is that illegal drug activity occurs in the suburbs as well as the city.
Neidert said five of Exeter's officers are designated as county detectives so they can investigate outside the township.
He said the emergency response team is another example of pooling resources. The team of specially trained and equipped officers from several police departments is available to help local police in hostage or other high-risk situations.