Accused heroin trafficker held for trial

Sabree Burke

ABINGTON — A Huntingdon Valley man accused with two others of running a heroin trafficking operation was held for trial following a preliminary hearing Nov. 27 before District Judge John Kessler.

Sabree Burke, 30, was arrested Nov. 14 after police, armed with a search warrant, observed him leave a Meadowbrook Drive apartment building, where they found 130 bricks of heroin, equal to 6,500 packets, and a loaded .40 caliber Ruger with an obliterated serial number, according to an affidavit. Burke, who was stopped while walking toward his vehicle, had $1,454 cash on him.

Burke was charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, person not to possess a firearm and other weapons charges.

Abington Detective Rick Beaghley testified at the hearing that Burke was exiting a common door of a Meadowbrook apartment house around 9:30 a.m. when he was stopped. Burke was found in possession of two cellphones, a set of keys and cash, he said.

Beaghley, who conducted the search of the apartment, said he entered using the keys in Burke’s possession. He testified that no one was inside the one-bedroom apartment, which had no living room furniture, a bed and TV on the floor of the bedroom, some men’s clothing and toiletries.

The heroin bricks were found in a shoebox in the bedroom and the gun was found under the bed, he said. In addition, Pennsylvania and New Jersey identification was located in a folder, he said.

“The apartment was set up typical of a stash house,” Beaghley said.

Under cross-examination by Burke’s attorney, Thomas Egan, Beaghley said he did not know whose name was on the lease for the apartment and that the size of the clothing found appeared to match Burke.

Beaghley also testified that three ski masks were found in the closet and a receipt for the masks was in the kitchen.

“Nothing said there was access for anyone else” in the apartment, he said.

Egan, who did not call any witnesses or offer any argument, telling the judge, “I understand the burden of proof here,” did argue for a reduction in bail from the $500,000 Burke has been held on at Montgomery County Prison since his arrest.

Burke lives in Huntingdon Valley with his girlfriend and has two children, whom he supports, Egan said.

Terming the $500,000 “excessive,” he noted that a reduction to $99,000 would permit Burke, who he said “has not a significant criminal history,” to “at least move around in the prison.”

Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman termed Burke “a danger to the community and flight risk.”

“It could take only one bag [of heroin] to kill someone,” she said. Burke is not permitted to possess a firearm and his criminal history includes two “prior possession with intent to deliver” charges, she said.

Burke has out-of-state ties and lived most of his life in Trenton, N.J., Cauffman said.

Kessler agreed to keep the bail at $500,000.

These are “dangerous crimes and a substantial amount of a controlled substance, and the gun is a great concern,” the judge said. Also, “it may be that Burke, through his alleged means of livelihood, has the ability to have access to a large amount of cash.”

Formal arraignment was scheduled for Jan. 15.

In addition to Burke, Roderick McKinney, 24, of Trenton, N.J., and Stanley Akers, 21, of Hamilton, N.J., believed to be two of Burke’s main lieutenants, were arrested on charges related to heroin trafficking, according to a release from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. McKinney was found in possession of 71 bricks, equal to 3,550 packets of heroin, and $500 cash; and Akers was found in possession of 50 bricks, equal to 2,500 packets of heroin, and $3,730 cash, the release said.

The heroin bricks recovered, each stamped with “Louis Vuitton” in red lettering, were worth a combined street value of more than $100,000, the DA’s office said.

McKinney and Akers were each charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a park, the release said. They were being held at the Mercer County Correction Center.

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