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NEW CASTLE, PA. Investigation nets drug-ring arrests



Published: Tue, April 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police gathered evidence through a wiretap and confidential informants.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Investigators say a big supplier of cocaine to the city has been shut off with the arrests in a suspected drug ring.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher was in New Castle on Monday to announce the arrests and explain the operation.

The group's suspected ringleader, James Johnson, 33, of Ridge Street, brought nearly $500,000 worth of suspected cocaine to New Castle over about a two-year period, the attorney general said.

Charges: Johnson was charged with possession of cocaine, delivery of cocaine, possession of marijuana, possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia and firearm violations. District Justice Melissa Amodie arraigned Johnson, and his bond was set at $50,000.

Fisher said Johnson was buying about a kilo, or about 2.2 pounds, of suspected cocaine each month and then selling it in smaller amounts to others.

"A kilo would generally not be sold to users. It's broken down into about 35 ounces and he could profit as much as $35,000 from the sale," Fisher said.

The drug mostly originated from a source in the Bronx section of New York City, but some of it also came from Detroit, Fisher said. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is looking into those connections and they hope to make more arrests soon, he said.

Fisher, along with Matthew Mangino, county district attorney, and New Castle Police Chief Victor Cubellis spoke at press conference in front of a poster board with pictures of those arrested and explaining their connections in the drug ring.

Fisher said that through the use of confidential police informants and a court-approved wiretap on Johnson's cellular telephone, they were able to file the charges.

All but three of the suspects were arrested Monday morning and arraigned by Amodie. Police said they were still searching for two people, and Ben David Tolbert, 34, who is in state prison, will be arraigned sometime this week. Tolbert is charged with delivery of cocaine.

Bond was set at $15,000 each for the others, Amodie said.

Arrests included Johnson's wife, Tabitha Johnson, 35, Ridge Street, and Theresa Wright, 28, of Beech Street, identified as Johnson's girlfriend, Fisher said. Each face a charge of criminal use of a communication facility and criminal conspiracy.

Court documents said both women knew about Johnson's drug trafficking and telephoned him several times about drug deals in October 2001 while police were listening to his calls.

Other conversations: Investigators also taped conversations between Johnson and Juan Marcus Searcy, 20, of West Washington Street. The two men talked about drug buys. Searcy also is accused of selling suspected cocaine to two different police informants, court records said.

He faces charges of delivery of cocaine, criminal conspiracy to deliver cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility.

Anthony Moss Sr., 33, of Locust Street faces charges of delivery of cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility. Court records said he sold suspected cocaine to a confidential police informant twice.

Police said the others charged called Johnson about drug buys while police were tapping Johnson's telephone.

Each of these people face charges of criminal facilitation of a communication device -- Michelle Keys, 32, of Sankey Street; Robert John Sullivan, 43, of Smithfield Street; Scott A. King, 35, of Boyle Avenue; and Tamesha Jackson, 24, of Pin Oak Drive.

Police said most of these taped conversations from the wiretap were less than two minutes long and all were identified through voice-recognition, self-identification or identification by one of the other speakers.

The arrests are part of an ongoing crackdown on drugs in the county with investigations by multiple county police departments, the district attorney's drug task force and the state.

A total of 50 people have been arrested on drug-related charges since mid-December, Mangino said.




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