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26 are linked to drug dealing

| Thursday, March 27, 2003

MOUNT PLEASANT - Three brothers and a Mount Pleasant Township businessman were among 26 people arrested Wednesday in an early morning roundup by authorities who hope to stem the tide of drug trafficking in the Mount Pleasant area.

Ronald L. Beckerleg Jr., 27, Thomas H. Beckerleg, 26, and Michael L. Beckerleg, 24, all of 137 High St. in Standard, Mount Pleasant Township, face a variety of charges related to the possession and/or sale of heroin, cocaine or other controlled substances.

Ronald Beckerleg allegedly sold heroin to undercover officers on two occasions in a parking lot at the rear of the R&R Station restaurant, off Center Avenue in Mount Pleasant. The eldest of the three brothers also faces burglary and theft charges filed in connection with the theft of a 2001 Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the Beer Haus tavern in East Huntingdon Township and inspection and emission stickers from the Import-Export Tire Shop in New Stanton.

Thomas Beckerleg is accused of selling cocaine and heroin from an apartment alongside the entrance of Gallagher's Pub on South Quarry Street in Mount Pleasant. Michael Beckerleg is accused of selling heroin at various locations in the borough.

Dustin R. Smetak, 29, of 673 N. Geary St., Mount Pleasant, the owner of D.S. Import Auto Service, located at 13 Frick St., Mount Pleasant Township, is accused of conspiring with three other defendants at his auto repair shop to possess heroin with the intent to sell it. In addition to finding heroin in an apartment above the garage, police said they also found a stolen 2001 Polaris all-terrain vehicle valued at $4,800.

Lt. Jack Perry, of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement, said arrest warrants had been issued for 33 suspects, but seven had yet to be apprehended.

Charges filed against those arrested Wednesday included 210 drug law violations, including the possession or sale of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and various other controlled substances, and 110 counts of burglary, theft and receiving stolen property related to burglaries of homes and several pharmacies in Cambria, Greene and Westmoreland counties.

Lt. Robert Weaver, commander of the state police criminal investigation unit in Greensburg, said officers recovered $45,000 in stolen ATVs, guns and motorcycles.

Many of the accused were acquaintances, Perry said. "I don't believe there's a leader of any group that's been identified. We think they committed the thefts and burglaries to sustain their heroin habits."

Weaver said what began in November 2001 as a criminal investigation of burglaries and thefts in the Mount Pleasant area later expanded into a drug investigation after the same names kept cropping up.

"Nowadays, the property crimes and drug crimes go hand in hand," Weaver said.

The Mount Pleasant and Connellsville police departments and the Westmoreland County Sheriff's Department assisted in the investigation and Wednesday's arrests.

Perry said many of those arrested could be considered street-level dealers who obtained much of their heroin from Duquesne, Allegheny County, which counts as its source the Philadelphia area.

Perry said his investigators are working with Allegheny County and federal law enforcement authorities to find and squelch the source of the drugs.

"We're hoping these arrests will lead to additional arrests," Perry said.

Mount Pleasant police Chief Steve Ober was pleased with the results of the nearly 18-month effort.

"I think we've made some significant progress in slowing the drug activity in our area," Ober said. "I hoping this leads to new information to further control the trafficking of illicit drugs."

Mount Pleasant Mayor Gerald Lucia agreed. "This is going to restore the faith of our citizens in their police force. We want them to know when they give us information, we don't turn a deaf ear. Sometimes it just takes time to put it together."

Suspects and charges

Following is a state police list of the suspects and the charges they face:

Charged with burglary, theft and various drug offenses are Carl W. Springer, 32, of 917 W. Vine St., Mount Pleasant; Jack L. Wiltsey, 34, of Mount Pleasant, R.D.6; and Ronald L. Beckerleg Jr., 27, of 137 High St., Mount Pleasant.

Justin S. Ludwig, 21, of 150 Low St., Mount Pleasant, is charged with burglary, receiving stolen property and various drug offenses. Facing charges of burglary, theft and related offenses are Keith J. Hoak Jr., 22, of Mount Pleasant, R.D.1, and Nathalie Blum of Greensburg.

Charged with possession with intent to deliver and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, plus other drug-related offenses, are Glenda E. Kuhns, 21, of 164 Maple Hill Apartments, Mount Pleasant; Jody Lynn Knight, 20, and Joshua L. Overly, 22, both of 116 Maple Hill Apartments, Mount Pleasant; Thomas H. Beckerleg, 26, and Michael L. Beckerleg, 24, both of 137 High St., Mount Pleasant; Joseph J. Povlik, 37, of 768 W. Main St., Mount Pleasant; Jason P. Szolek, 21, of Acme, R.D.1; Nathan M. Paul, 23, of 27 Harrington Way, Greensburg; Scott K. Lazar, 26, of Mount Pleasant, R.D.4; Walter A. Bennett, 39, of Mount Pleasant, R.D.2; Tara S. Biller, 23, of 148 N. Diamond St., Mount Pleasant; and Nicholas A. Pletcher, 24, of 251 Oak St., Mount Pleasant.

Others facing drug charges are Rocco A. Rossi, 44, of 600 Greek Road, New Stanton, who also faces a federal firearms charge; Dustin R. Smetak, 29, of 637 N. Geary St., Mount Pleasant, who also faces a firearms charge; Terri R. Thomas, 31, of 111 Braddock Road Ave., Mount Pleasant; Heather Waddell, 30, address unknown; Summer D. Davis, 24, of 806-A N. Ninth St., Connellsville; and Erica D. Nicklow, 20, of 228 S. Prospect St., Connellsville.

In addition, Raymond G. Crabtree, 29, of Stahlstown, R.D.1, has been charged with receiving stolen property; and William G. Perry, 45, of 28 Candlelight Mobile Home Estates, Ruffsdale, has been charged with impersonating a public servant. George A. Thomas, 33, of 111 Braddock Road Ave., Mount Pleasant, has been charged with burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, criminal mischief and criminal conspiracy.

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