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Former prison guards won't face drug charges

Charges against four Indiana County Prison guards accused of illegal drug dealings will not be prosecuted by the county's District Attorney's Office.

District Attorney Robert Bell entered nolle prosequi motions on all the charges in each of the guards' cases to the effect that he does not intend to go any further with prosecution.

The legal term does not equate to an acquittal, and the four could be re-indicted at a later date. Bell did not return phone calls made seeking an explanation for the move.

Steven Barbus, 31, of 3265 Climax Road, West Wheatfield Township; Troy Mack, 28, of 21 Jones St., Robinson; Robert Lichtenfels, 29, of 179 Caroline St., Robinson; and Richard Harshberger, 35, of 304 Gibson Farm Road, Blacklick Township, were charged by the state Attorney General with drug possession and possession with intent to deliver.

The charges came against the four guards mostly as the result of a notarized, 17-page statement sworn to by William Hunt, a former county inmate.

After agents at the Attorney General's Office interviewed the four separately, Barbus and Mack allegedly confessed and, along with Lichtenfels, implicated Harshberger in the scheme.

Lichtenfels maintained his innocence when interviewed, but was implicated by Hunt and further interviews, according to affidavits.

A search warrant served on Harshberger's home revealed hashish, a hash pipe and a total of about 150 OxyContin and oxycodone tablets.

Lichtenfels and Mack referred questions to their attorneys. Lichtenfels' lawyer, Matthew Kovacik, was unavailable. Mack's attorney did not return phone calls, nor did Barbus. A phone number for Harshberger was disconnected.

Bell did file information seeking the prosecution of Tina Marie Lord, 29, of 252 Patchen Road, Montgomery Township, also charged by the Attorney General. Affidavits say Lord, an Indiana Borough police dispatcher, warned a friend that he was being investigated by the police.

The investigation came about after a drug sweep in August that targeted low-level dealers in the Route 22 corridor from Monroeville to Altoona.

All four guards have resigned from their positions as corrections officers. Lord's termination date was given by the county personnel office as Nov. 4.

County Warden Carol Wilson, who cooperated in the investigation, said the four guards were suspended in November.

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