Vending company beneath marijuana grow site has city, county contracts

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 5:25 p.m.

A vending machine company based in a Lawrenceville warehouse where police busted a major marijuana growing operation sells snacks and sodas to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County government workers as part of a business network spanning six counties, records show.

Complete Vending Services Inc. has operated coin-operated vending machine services for the city for more than a decade, according to contracts in the City Controller's Office.

Pittsburgh police found 325 marijuana plants worth an estimated $500,000 on the second floor of the Complete Vending warehouse on Davison Street when they investigated a report of what turned out to be a burglary in progress early May 29.

The city shares a percentage of revenue from vending machines with vendors such as Complete Vending, mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said.

In a 2007 contract, Complete Vending owner John Balsamico wrote that the company has paid approximately $25,000 per year to the city.

An employee who answered the office door on Friday said Balsamico was not there and she declined comment. Police interviewed Balsamico after finding the plants but have not charged him, court records show.

McNulty said Finance Department records show the city received $670 in 2012 and $691 in 2013 from Complete Vending, but he couldn't say from how many machines.

He is not aware of any plan to review the Complete Vending contract because of the drug investigation. The city can cancel a contract with 30 days' notice, McNulty said.

The controller's office found records of payments totaling $5,585 since 2007, but Deputy Controller Doug Anderson said that includes money only from vending machines in the controller's office and a City Council lunchroom on the fifth floor of the City-County Building.

In a 2011 contract, Complete Vending wrote that since 1997, it has provided vending services to city-owned buildings Downtown, police stations, parks and pools.

It said it had contracts with Allegheny County Parks for the North Park ice rink in 2005 and the South Park BMX & Skate Park in 2008, and service contracts with “major apartment complexes,” schools and colleges in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Westmoreland and Washington counties.

Documents list Balsamico as the company's president and sole shareholder. Its company profile says: “CVS has a well-organized warehouse, which it believes promotes a steady stream of recurring customers.”

Police arrested three men accused of trying to steal the marijuana. Michael Snee, 31, Shaun Hollis, 30, and Fredrick Jeffcoat, 34, all of McKeesport are charged with burglary, conspiracy, carrying an unlicensed gun, possession with intent to deliver and possessing an instrument of crime.

Their preliminary hearings are set for Wednesday.

Public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said police are still investigating.

Neighbors said new tenants began renting the second floor of the building about six months ago.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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