A Lancaster man was sentenced earlier this month to nearly four years in federal prison for his role in smuggling drugs from Puerto Rico into the local region.
Ricardo Soto, 52, was sentenced Jan. 19 in Harrisburg by U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer P. Wilson to 47 months in prison. Soto was known as the “Chicken Man.”
According to U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Soto conspired with six others to smuggle several kilograms of cocaine into central Pennsylvania through the U.S. Postal Service.
The cocaine was shipped from Puerto Rico and mailed to various drop locations in Lancaster, prosecutors said, where the parcels were later retrieved by the conspirators for distribution. The accused also engaged in street level drug trafficking, including selling heroin and fentanyl to customers, and transported cash back to Puerto Rico in the trafficking process.
Soto pled guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.
Soto’s co-conspirator, Jonathan Lopez Arizmendi, 31, of Lancaster, pled guilty on Aug. 8 to conspiracy to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine. He is scheduled to be sentenced in Harrisburg on March 13.
The other co-conspirators charged in the case include Omar Carmenaty-Morales, Ricky Sanchez, Moniqua Ramirez, Luis Doel Gonzales-Alvarado and Angel Leon-Rivera. The remaining co-conspirators are awaiting trial, which is scheduled to begin April 3.
The drug case was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a federal program bringing together different levels of law enforcement and local communities to reduce violent crime and gun violence. Soto’s case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Pennsylvania State Police, the United States Postal Inspection Service, Lancaster County Drug Task Force and York County Drug Task Force.
Soto first came on the radar of law enforcement when he was arrested along with Ramirez by the Lancaster County Drug Task Force when they raided a home in the 300 block of South Ann Street in Lancaster in September 2020 after surveillance activity. Investigators found more than two pounds of cocaine and nearly 800 bags of fentanyl with a street value of about $100,000, along with almost $30,000 cash in the home.
Soto and Ramirez were subsequently charged with felony counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl and conspiracy, with investigators calling the pair “upper-level dealers.” According to court records, the county charges were subsequently dropped.