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Authorities go after alleged Lower Burrell drug trafficker's assets

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 11:47 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Federal authorities had this house at 1051 Puckety Church Road in Lower Burrell forfeited. Authorities proved that illegal drug money was used by Omali Atiba McKay to buy the house near Burrell High School, which was raided for drugs and firearms in August 2012. Photographed on Sept. 10, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

The federal and state governments are seeking assets from an alleged drug trafficker accused of having cocaine and weapons in his Lower Burrell home.

Omali Atiba McKay, 27, who agents say lived at 1051 Puckety Church Road and had an apartment on Constitution Boulevard in Arnold, was arrested Aug. 25.

That was a year to the day after the Trinidad native bought the Puckety Church Road house for $235,000. He is listed as the sole owner.

Police and agents searched both residences after state police investigated a report of a man shooting at a car earlier on Aug. 25.

According to court papers, McKay told federal immigration officers he had about $4,000 in net worth when he came to this country. He has been in the Arnold area since at least 2007, as indicated by a marriage license he obtained that year.

They found McKay, another man, a woman and a handgun in a Chevrolet Cobalt in the Leechburg area. McKay was arrested and remains in federal custody.

McKay is accused of having at least 2.25 pounds of cocaine and having a gun “in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.”

If convicted, he could be sentenced to five to 40 years in prison and fined up to $5 million or both.

Prosecutors haven't said where McKay allegedly sold the drugs or if anyone else may be charged.

In September, the government asked a federal judge in Pittsburgh to order the house forfeited because it was allegedly bought with drug money and police found the cocaine and guns in the house.

This month, the state Attorney General's office filed papers in Westmoreland County Court to gain access to items found in the house — including about $271,000 in cash.

Police said a scan of the money revealed cocaine residue four times higher than the average.

The petition also seeks forfeiture of three cars, two semi-automatic pistols and a Bushmaster-model .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle, digital camera and a variety of household items.

The paperwork specifies a 2007 Hyundai Sonata, 2004 Lexus and 2004 Mercedes-Benz, a laptop computer and Troy-Bilt lawn tractor.

Also found in the house: a gold Bulova men's watch with gems; gold ring with nine gems, eight pieces of gold and silver jewelry, six flat-screen TVs ranging from 24- to 55-inches.

Lower Burrell police joined federal agents and state police from the Greensburg and Kiski Valley stations in the investigation.

The federal government and state Attorney General's office will “share the proceeds of any forfeitures among the investigating agencies,” said attorney general's spokeswoman Lauren C. Bozart in Harrisburg.

In Pittsburgh, U.S. Attorney's spokeswoman Margaret Philbin said there is a reason why both levels of government are seeking forfeiture rather than one doing so and distributing money accordingly.

“It was a joint investigation,” she said. “The search warrants were state issued and the prosecution went federal. We are going after the house, and the state is seeking the other items recovered during their search warrants.”

Usually the Justice Department gets 20 percent of forfeited money and the remaining 80 percent is divided among agents, state and local police based on each agency's level of participation, Philbin said.

The money can only be used for law enforcement purposes such as overtime or equipment.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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