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4 in drug ring plead guilty; 5th charged fails to appear



Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



An arrest warrant has been issued for the man alleged to be the ringleader.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Four people accused of being part of a Detroit drug gang pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including criminal conspiracy and drug possession.All four had been expected to go to trial Monday on charges of being part of a corrupt organization.

A fifth person, alleged to be the ringleader, James "O.Z." Brooks, 37, did not appear in court Monday, and prosecutors have asked the judge if he can be tried without being present.

Judge Tom Piccione of Lawrence County Common Pleas Court was expected to rule on the motion this morning.

"It's not unheard of, but it's unusual," said Michael Ahwesh, deputy attorney general, said of trying Brooks without his being present.

Four others -- Dorothy Ortiz, 37; Terry Griffith, 37; Frenzado Snow, 27; and Anthony Neal, 34 -- pleaded guilty to charges mostly as they were filed in March, Ahwesh said.

One count of being part of a pattern of corrupt organization was dropped against Ortiz and Snow.

Ahwesh said no special plea deals were made with the defendants before they entered their guilty pleas.

Snow and Ortiz will be sentenced Dec. 7, and Griffith and Neal will be sentenced Feb. 2.

Crimes

Griffith, of North Mercer Street, New Castle, pleaded guilt to one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy, one count of drug possession and two counts of drug delivery.

Neal, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy, one count of drug possession, two counts of drug delivery, two counts of simple assault and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.

Ortiz, of Laurel Boulevard, New Castle, pleaded guilty to one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy, two counts of drug possession, four counts of drug delivery and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.

Snow, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy, three counts of drug possession, four counts of drug delivery and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

The five were among 28 people charged in March. Attorney General Tom Corbett said they were part of two groups who took control of the crack cocaine sales in the city.

Griffith and Ortiz remain free on bond, and Snow and Neal are in jail.

Brooks was released from jail in September because prosecutors failed to bring him to trial within 180 days of filing the charges. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

cioffi@vindy.com




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