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Attorney General drops charges against 'upper-level' heroin dealers, records show

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 10:06 a.m.
James Perrin, 35, whose address is unknown, is charged with conspiring to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin,
Price Montgomery, 35, is accused of solicitation of murder

The investigation into two men characterized as “upper-level” heroin dealers may not be over despite state prosecutors withdrawing charges, a former federal prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Mark Serge filed a motion this week asking a judge to drop drug, gun and conspiracy charges against Price Montgomery, 34, of Mt. Washington and James Perrin, 35, of unknown address.

That could mean the two men caught the eye of federal authorities, said Stephen Stallings, a former federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh and Miami who chairs the White Collar and Government Enforcement Practice Group at Burns White LLC.

“It's probably the most common reason why that happens,” Stallings said. “Oftentimes, if somebody is prosecuted in the federal system, they face significantly longer prison terms, including mandatory minimums.”

J.J. Abbott, a spokesman with the Attorney General's Office, said he couldn't comment on the state's decision to drop the charges against Perrin and Montgomery. Representatives of the office won't say whether the death of Tina Crawford, 34, in the Hill District affected its case. Spokeswoman Carolyn Myers said agents are investigating the killing.

“We are working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to find those responsible for Tina Crawford's death,” Myers said in an email. “It is an ongoing investigation.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh declined to comment.

Three gunmen fired at least 20 shots on Friday at Crawford and her mother, Patsy Crawford, in the entrance to the basement garage of their home on Cherokee Street. Tina Crawford died, and her mother, 63, was wounded.

Public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said Patsy Crawford remains hospitalized in stable condition. She would not confirm the involvement of other agencies in the homicide investigation, and she said she could not release information on the case.

Family members knew Tina Crawford was involved in a criminal investigation, but she didn't talk to relatives about it, possibly to keep them from worrying about her, said her sister Tamara Crawford, 25.

“There is a federal death penalty,” Stallings said. “If there was a federal investigation, and these two were somehow tied into the murder, you can bet the feds would want it.”

It's possible that federal authorities have indicted Perrin and Montgomery but that the indictment is sealed, Stallings said.

Both men, arrested by attorney general's agents, posted bond and were released from the Allegheny County Jail in June. A press release at the time said investigators seized 1,500 bricks of heroin, 16 firearms, more than $100,000 in cash and jewelry, two luxury vehicles, Cuban cigars and a live chicken when they searched Montgomery's home on William Street.

“Typically, with large drug cases, there are multiple suspects,” Stallings said. “They'll leave the indictment under seal as they go around and pick everybody up.”

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com. Staff writer Brian Bowling contributed.

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