Illegal immigrant gets prison for running grow houses in Reading and South Heidelberg

By Holly Herman
Reading Eagle

A 43-year-old illegal alien from the Dominican Republic was sentenced today in Berks County Court to four to 10 years in state prison for running a marijuana-growing operation houses in Reading and South Heidelberg Township.

Roman Rodriguez unexpectedly pleaded guilty Monday after a jury was selected for his trial before Judge Thomas G. Parisi.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to participating in a corrupt organization, manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy and related offenses.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Eltringham said Rodriguez likely will be deported after he completes his sentence.

Eltringham said the plea saved time.

"We were looking at a trial that would have lasted a week," Eltringham said.

The sentence was based on an agreement between Eltringham and Rodriguez's lawyer, Erv McLain of Bethlehem, Northampton County.

Seven other defendants are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty, and charges are pending against Juan Rodriguez, 49, Howard Beach, N.Y.

According to court records:

Police seized 50 pounds of marijuana, valued at $50,000, at 916 Centre Ave. in Reading and another 30 pounds, valued at 30,000, at 210 Longview Drive in South Heidelberg during the raids April 24, 2008.

Investigators found 150 marijuana plants, valued at $150,000, growing in the family room at 8 Carriage Drive in South Heidelberg Township on May 1, 2008.

They said the Carriage Drive house was part of the Longview Drive operation.

Prosecutors are seeking court approval to seize the Centre Avenue and Longview Drive houses.

Officials said the Reading home is valued at $215,000 and the South Heidelberg house is valued at $221,000.

Prosecutors also are seeking to seize three vehicles, nearly $1,000 and video and computer equipment.

Contact Holly Herman: 610-478-6291 or

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