Vending business sold after pot-growing operation found in Lawrenceville
The former owner of a Lawrenceville vending machine business sold his company about a month after Pittsburgh police discovered a major marijuana growing operation on the second floor of the building's warehouse.
CRH Catering Co., based in Connellsville, took over Complete Vending Service Inc. on July 1, but continues to employ former Complete Vending owner John Balsamico, CRH Vice President Pete Cordaro told the Tribune-Review this week. He would not disclose how much he paid for the business at the corner of Davison Street and Urbana Way.
A 911 call about suspicious activity early May 29 led police to the Complete Vending warehouse. On the second floor, police found a marijuana-growing operation with about 325 plants, a dozen bags of dried marijuana and numerous bags of buds. The street value of the plants alone was estimated by police to be $500,000.
City police charged three men from McKeesport with burglarizing the business, but have not publicly identified the operator of the marijuana grow lab. Balsamico isn't charged. Police have said it was the biggest marijuana operation they've seen in decades.
“We are still investigating,” Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler said Wednesday. “I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of where the investigation is leading.”
Toler said the city's Bureau of Building Inspection issued a citation to Complete Vending's owner “stemming from the bust concerning constructing an HVAC system without permits.” HVAC refers generally to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems that control air temperature and air quality inside a building. Toler did not provide details of the citation, but she said building owners are typically given an opportunity to correct violations and have a reinspection. She said there were no previous inspection violations.
Neighbors on Davison Street said they've received no updates from police about the investigation. They're frustrated by the lack of communication.
“I would like somebody to step up and say something,” said Laura Smith, 46. “Our community wants to hear something. There are so many young kids in the area and a lot of elderly. What if they had guns? There could've been a lot more to it than what happened that morning. People could've got hurt.”
Lauren Byrne, executive director of Lawrenceville United, a nonprofit that focuses on improving the quality of life in the neighborhood, said residents have wondered about arrests, but she hasn't heard complaints.
“It has heightened folks' awareness,” Byrne said. “It's nice that people have become more aware of vacant buildings and spaces in the community in case they are being used for these things.”
Cordaro said CRH had been eyeing Complete Vending for possible acquisition for about five years. He said he was aware of the marijuana bust through newspaper reports.
“Why John decided to sell now, I have no idea,” Cordaro said. “You'd have to ask him.”
A man who answered the door at the Complete Vending warehouse referred comment to CRH. Balsamico has declined previous interview requests.
Complete Vending has contracts to supply vending machines to city and county governments. Cordaro said CRH will continue to provide those services.
He said the company sent a letter to county and city officials notifying them of the change in ownership.
Cordaro said police haven't contacted him. He said he isn't concerned about the investigation into the grow lab.
“It has no reflection on what we're doing,” he said. “We're in the vending business only. It has no bearing.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys
- Transportation challenges rife as Pittsburgh focuses on making fixes
- Montour Trail gets needed updates
- Transportation funding uncertainty impacts planning for Western Pa.
- Newsmaker: Derek Wesley
- Teachers union advises lawyers for colleagues of Plum pair investigated on sex charges
- Trib Total Media Outstanding Young Citizen Awards presents scholarship, 10 gold medals
- 2 from Carrick charged in connection with rash of heroin overdoses
- Development could soon be booming in West End
- Highmark asks patients to ‘Meet Dr. Right’
- Allegheny County sheriff’s deputy mending from Family Court scuffle