Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Alexander "Reds" Rivera, 26 Bull, goats, chickens, sheep, lambs, geese & ducks seized from illegal petting zoo

Philadelphia, PA

April 19, 2008  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
  drug kingpin, murder bull, goats, chickens, sheep, lambs, geese, cougars, tigers & ducks Zoo closed, Cited by the SPCA  

Member of the SPCA watched as a man ran out down a city block leading a bull by a 25 foot extension cord.

Also found was a lamb who is now on life support, 3 goats, and chickens and geese.

Neighbors described a man carrying out what looked to be anything from a cougar to a tiger but the SPCA still can't find that animal.

Photo courtesy of the BBC documentary about Rivera

Alexander "Reds" Rivera denies owning any kind of cats, however in the interview he said he purchased the bull from a butcher and he was just being nice giving the neighborhood kids a chance to see animals up close because they don't get to go to the zoo.

It is illegal to have barnyard animals in the city except for horses.

Update 6/14/12: The petting zoo was a menagerie of diseased looking farmyard escapees. Most Philadelphians were blissfully unaware of its existence. But there is no denying that the Philadelphia Petting Zoo is a weird and interesting footnote in the city’s modern history.

The petting zoo was the brainchild of Alex “Reds” Rivera, well known to local law enforcement as a suspected drug kingpin and subject of a Louis Theroux BBC documentary about crime in Philly.

The highlights of the petting zoo were rather modest – an emaciated cow, a lamb, stray dogs, and several roosters that bore the scars of veterans of the cockfighting ring.

Photo courtesy of RentCafe

Rivera is an amiable guy and it’s hard not to be intrigued by a dude who effortlessly blends charisma, silliness, and abject violence. Now the petting zoo is closed. Earlier this year, Rivera was sentenced to life in prison on a variety of convictions, including drug trafficking, attempted murder, and other charges.

Rivera's criminal casefile *You can read additional documentation about Rivera at Rivera.pdf & USA vs Rivera.pdf

Update 9/11/10: Is he a drug kingpin, as federal authorities allege? Or is he, as his defense lawyer contends, a "laid-back" guy from the streets who once operated a popular - albeit illegal - petting zoo for the children of his Kensington neighborhood?

Those two pictures of suspected drug dealer Alex "Reds" Rivera emerged as the 28-year-old made his first appearance in federal court after his arrest on cocaine-dealing charges.

Rivera, as it turns out, will spend at least seven more days in jail after Judge Jacob P. Hart granted a request for a one-week delay by defense attorney Peter Bowers, who wanted more time to study the charges in the case before arguing issues at a detention hearing.

Prosecutors have opposed bail for Rivera, whom they describe as the "violent leader of a large-scale drug-trafficking organization" that for several years has controlled the narcotics trade along North Lawrence Street and West Indiana Avenue in Kensington. Citing his lengthy arrest record and "past penchant for violence," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Cullen and David Axelrod filed a motion seeking to keep Rivera behind bars pending trial.

But Bowers, who has represented Rivera in a series of Commons Pleas Court cases, said his client was "not a tough guy" and was well thought-of on the streets of North Philadelphia. At one point, he said, Rivera kept horses, cows, chickens, roosters, and one very large bull in a stable that served as a petting zoo for the children of his neighborhood. That, Bowers acknowledged, led to problems with the SPCA, one of several brushes his client has had with authorities.

Prosecutors said the stable, one of several locations raided last week, was one of the sites where Rivera stored drugs.

The conflicting pictures of a prime suspect in an ongoing FBI investigation are expected to continue as more details about his life and the narcotics probe surface.

Short and stocky, with reddish-brown hair, a full beard, and forearms covered in tattoos, Rivera said little as he appeared in handcuffs and dressed in a green prison jumpsuit for his brief court appearance.

A new detention hearing has been set for September 17th, 2010,.

Rivera is charged with selling 125 grams of crack cocaine to an undercover operative working for the FBI.

The arrest capped an investigation that included wiretaps and information provided by confidential sources, at least one of whom arranged and made a crack purchase in June as the FBI watched and listened.

An affidavit filed by the FBI agent heading the investigation said Rivera had been described by drug-underworld sources as a "substantial narcotics dealer" who since at least 2006 has " 'owned' or controlled" the drug territory on the two streets. The affidavit from Agent James P. Crowley detailed how the FBI used a source to purchase crack cocaine from Rivera and a top associate, Daniel Cortez, 27, on June 4th, 2010.

The drug buy, which allegedly occurred at Rivera's house in the 3400 block of F Street, was arranged through a series of phone calls recorded by the FBI. The source then wore a body wire while making the purchase for $4,000.

Arrest warrants were issued for Rivera and Cortez on September 7th, 2010, but Cortez could not be located. He is now a fugitive.

During a series of raids that targeted properties authorities said were controlled by Rivera or his associates, the FBI seized small quantities of cocaine, crack, heroin, marijuana, and PCP; an SKS assault rifle, four handguns, and numerous rounds of ammunition; $20,000 in cash; and a 2007 Mercedes-Benz, a 2006 Buick Luzerne, and a 2004 Honda 1800 motorcycle.

At the stable where investigators said Rivera had stored drugs, authorities found four horses and numerous roosters that "appear to have been kept and trained for cockfighting," according to prosecutors. Prosecutors noted that Rivera has been arrested nine times and has three convictions dating back to February 2000. All the cases were in Common Pleas Court, where he pleaded guilty to drug-dealing and weapons offenses. Other charges, which were either dismissed or withdrawn, included murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and cruelty to animals.

In urging that Rivera not be released on bail, prosecutors said that he "appears to rely entirely on drug.

Update 11/11/10: Reputed North Philadelphia drug kingpin Alexander "Reds" Rivera, was indicted November 8th, 2010 along with his wife, his mother-in-law, and 10 associates for alleged drug trafficking.

The 27-count indictment capped a lengthy investigation by the FBI's Violent Gang Task Force and the Philadelphia Police Department into a drug operation allegedly run by Rivera.

Both Rivera's wife, Ileana Vidal, 24, and his mother-in-law, Ida Cardona, 52, were charged with packaging, storing, and selling cocaine, heroin, and PCP.

Authorities allege the Rivera network "distributed massive quantities of [drugs]..." beginning in February 2006. Rivera "owned or controlled the drug sales . . . in and around the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Lawrence Street," according to the indictment, and used his wife and mother-in-law "to assist him in the operation."

The indictment also alleges that Rivera shot an unnamed "innocent bystander" during a shoot-out with a rival drug dealer in September 2006. It also charged that in August 2007, Rivera associate Daniel Cortez, 28, kidnapped and tortured a man who owed Rivera money.

And it alleged that in December 2009, Rivera and Cesar Burgos, 29, another codefendant, hired a hit man to shoot a drug rival. The unnamed hit man was one of at least a dozen individuals cited in the indictment who have apparently testified before a federal jury. That testimony, along with secretly recorded and wiretapped conversations, law enforcement surveillance, and controlled drug buys, provide the evidence upon which the case has been built.

Rivera was described in a prosecution memo that supported a government argument that he should be denied bail after his arrest, as a "dangerous drug dealer with access to multiple firearms." Authorities staged a series of raids on several locations in Kensington where they alleged Rivera stashed drugs and weapons.

The indictment lists eight properties, including Rivera's home in the 3400 block of North F Street and two garages there, as targets for forfeiture. Those and the other locations were allegedly used as stash houses where drugs were stored and packaged and from which they were sometimes sold. The government also seeks the seizure of four vehicles, including a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes-Benz.

During the raids in September, investigators seized drugs, an assault rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, and eight handguns.

Photo courtesy of RentCafe

Rivera, short and stocky with tattooed arms and bushy red hair and a beard, was once cited by the SPCA, according to his lawyer, for maintaining an unlicensed "petting zoo" in a stable-like garage in his neighborhood. At the time of the raids in September, authorities said, there were roosters that appeared to be trained for cockfighting, and horses in the garage. The building also served as a stash house for drugs, they said. "He is not a zookeeper," quipped one investigator.

Rivera was one of several reputed drug dealers featured in a 2008 BBC documentary, Law and Disorder in Philadelphia. In an on-camera interview, Rivera denied that he was involved in drugs and said he made money selling real estate and cars. "We not doing nothing bad, man," he said as he stood on a corner with his 7-year-old daughter. He said he never shot anyone, but had been involved in fights. "We always beat people up," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you. Sometimes, you do what you got to do to survive."

But he said he planned to leave the neighborhood and told BBC reporter Louis Theroux, "There's going to be worser people than me . . . and there's going to be more problems. . . . Everybody wants to do whatever . . . anything anybody wants to do. Somebody got to have control of something."

Update 6/15/11: Federal authorities have filed a new indictment against Alex “Reds” Rivera. Rivera is accused of controlling drug sales in and around North Lawrence Street and West Indiana Avenue in Kensington and of using violence, threats, and intimidation to discourage rival dealers and solidify his hold on the market. The new indictment comes a month after one of Rivera’s top associates, Daniel Cortez, 28, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in the case.

At his change of plea hearing last month, Cortez was described as a "manager and supervisor" for the organization who supplied several of the street-level dealers who worked for Rivera. Cortez and three other defendants named in the original indictment have pleaded guilty. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Axelrod, one of the prosecutors in the case, declined to comment when asked if Cortez and the others were cooperating with authorities.

The new indictment adds four additional defendants to the case, which is tentatively set for trial in July. The new defendants and the expansion of the indictment will likely result in a delay. The case is built around wiretaps, informant testimony, and controlled drug buys by cooperators working with federal authorities.

Photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

Rivera has been held without bail since his arrest in September. Other defendants in the case include his wife and his mother-in-law, both of whom have been released on bail pending trial.

Update 11/29/11: FBI Press Releases • 2011 • Leader of Violent City Drug Gang Convicted of All Charges
U.S. Attorney’s Office • Eastern District of Pennsylvania(215) 861-8200

Alexander Rivera, aka“Reds,” 29, and his wife, Ileana Vidal, aka “Diana,” 25, both of Philadelphia, were convicted late yesterday of all charges against them stemming from a drug conspiracy involving the Alexander Rivera Narcotics Distribution Organization (“ARDO”), announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

Between February 2006 and September 2010, Rivera, ran the ARDO, and controlled drug distribution in and around the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Lawrence Street in North Philadelphia, as well as other areas in Philadelphia, obtaining cocaine, crack, heroin, and PCP that his co-defendants would then sell on the street. Rivera, his wife, and 15 others were charged with distributing 280 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”), 500 grams or more of cocaine, heroin, and phencyclidine (“PCP”). The 15 co-defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the operation. Rivera and his wife were tried in U.S. District Court.

Rivera and several co-defendants engaged in violence to protect and maintain the ARDO’s drug territory, which included vacant properties and residences in North Philadelphia used for stashing drugs and distribution to customers. The superseding indictment alleges that on September 26, 2006, while engaged in a shootout with a rival drug dealer, Rivera shot an innocent bystander; on August 14, 2007, co-defendant Daniel Cortez, along with two others known to the grand jury, kidnapped and tortured a person who owed Rivera drug money; and on December 24, 2009, Rivera and co-defendant Cesar Burgos hired a person known to the grand jury to shoot a rival drug dealer.

Rivera was convicted of conspiracy, and other counts charging him with distribution or possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base (“crack”), and heroin, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Vidal was convicted of conspiracy, the sole count against her.

Rivera faces a mandatory term of life in prison and will be formally sentenced on February 29, 2012 by U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez; Vidal faces a mandatory term of 10 years in prison and will be sentenced March 2, 2012. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Philadelphia Division, Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force, and the Philadelphia Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Axelrod and Randy Hsia.

Update 11/30/11: A federal jury handed up its verdict last night, capping a two-week trial that included testimony from several of Rivera's top associates, dozens of secretly recorded conversations, and surveillance and law enforcement reports of controlled drug buys from Rivera and others.

In his closing argument to the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Axelrod, one of the prosecutors in the case, described the businesslike nature of the Rivera operation, which he said was selling about $18,000 worth of crack cocaine a week for a four-year period beginning in 2006.

Rivera, now 29, was convicted on charges of drug dealing and conspiracy tied to a narcotics network that prosecutors alleged "owned" several blocks of an open-air drug market in North Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez has scheduled Rivera's sentencing for February 29th, 2012. His wife, Ileana Vidal, is scheduled to be sentenced March 2nd 2012.

The jury deliberated for about five hours before announcing its verdict

Update 4/4/12: Rivera was given a life sentence yesterday in federal court. The "Reds" Rivera's gang operated in a troubled Kensington neighborhood between February 2006 and September 2010.

Rivera's wife, Ileana Vidal, 26, was also convicted of conspiracy during the same trial. Her lawyer has asked for a continuance. However in the end Vidal was sentenced to 10 years in jail.


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