Ecstasy bust largest ever in Homestead
Homestead police, assisted by federal agents, have made the borough's largest ever ecstasy drug bust after an investigation that lasted nearly four months.
Bond for Homestead resident Vernon Dominguez also known as "Blizz" or "Blizza" was set at $20,000 on Tuesday by U.S. District Magistrate Lisa Pupo Lenihan on charges related to drug trafficking.
He is charged with distribution of MDMA, conspiracy to distribute MDMA, and possession of a firearm. MDMA is more commonly known as ecstasy.
"All told, there are about 2,200 ecstasy pills involved," Homestead police Chief Jeff DeSimone said.
He said that number includes pills purchased during undercover operations, and pills recovered after Dominguez's arrest.
The investigation into drug trafficking from New York to Homestead began in April when Homestead police officers Matt Fusco and Ron Depellegrin developed information about the distribution of ecstasy, DeSimone said.
That led police to execute two search warrants one on Seventeenth Avenue and one on Nineteenth Avenue in April.
The chief said police identified Dominguez as a suspect.
"The information was, he was from New York," he said. "He was staying in Homestead and he made frequent trips back and forth."
DeSimone said the Drug Enforcement Agency was contacted because of the out-of-state connection.
"Subsequent to developing this information in cooperation with DEA, we made arrangements to make purchases off of Blizz," he said. "We made one purchase on June 22 with a controlled buy of 100 pills for $420. We made another controlled buy of 100 ecstasy pills on June 30 again for $420. We made a controlled buy on July 12 for 200 ecstasy pills for $804."
DeSimone said that, because the DEA was fronting the money to make the controlled buy, that agency took the contraband and is handling the charges.
He said a controlled buy on July 27 in the Waterfront was set up to be a drug bust.
"At that time, 200 ecstasy pills were recovered from Blizz, as well as a 9 mm Ruger semi-automatic pistol," DeSimone said.
He said a man who was with Blizz at the drug bust was subsequently released.
DeSimone said another search warrant was executed at Dominguez's Homestead residence, recovering 1,600 ecstasy pills, approximately $2,600 in cash, a passport, an additional gun magazine and ammunition.
"It was a pretty nice hit," he said. "I'm not saying it was all Homestead. We initiated it and went to DEA. They came in and we jointly did it. Because they have the buy money, they get credit for the arrest. It wouldn't have taken place if it weren't for these guys.
"These guys did a good job. It started as information that came from a street officer. That was followed up. We got another agency to assist. It was a joint operation and it came out successful."
He said the street value of ecstasy ranges from $10-$20 a pill for the "designer drug."
DeSimone said ecstasy seems to be popular with younger people.
"They say it enhances their sexual enjoyment," he said. "From what I hear, they tend to want to take it to have sex. It does cause problems. It makes people act strange and do crazy (things)."
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review contributed to this story.