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Alleged drug ring that sold carfentanil busted in Allegheny County

Megan Guza
| Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 1:45 p.m.
Samples of carfentanil and other opioids await testing at a lab at the Hamilton County Coroner's office in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Samples of carfentanil and other opioids await testing at a lab at the Hamilton County Coroner's office in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

Authorities broke up a six-man drug ring responsible for dealing the powerful synthetic opioid carfentanil in Allegheny County, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

The bust, announced Thursday, resulted in the first seizure of carfentanil in Allegheny County.

The charges came in an indictment by a statewide grand jury, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The investigation, dating back to September 2016, identified a Homestead man as “the Boss” of the drug ring, Shapiro's office said.

“These dealers sold carfentanil — a potent, deadly drug that is literally used to tranquilize elephants,” Shapiro said in a statement. “It is outrageous criminal conduct, we won't allow it, and with strong law enforcement collaboration, we've shut down a drug ring that sold three-quarters of a million dollars of poison in towns across Allegheny County.”

Deondray Beasley, 29, was the ringleader, according to police. He bought and sold carfentanil, fentanyl and heroin in Pittsburgh, Munhall, Braddock Heights, North Braddock and Braddock.

Information from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office shows 10 overdose deaths this year in which carfentanil was found in the victim's body. The number could be higher, as it can take up to two months to receive results from toxicology tests.

Beasley appeared on law enforcement's radar when detectives watched a drug deal between Beasley, one of his associates and a buyer, Shapiro's office said. Detectives found 23 bags of carfentanil and 27 bags of heroin laced with fentanyl during a subsequent traffic stop, the office said.

The investigation continued with surveillance and controlled buys made by undercover investigators, Shapiro's office said. The transactions occurred with Beasley and two others: Derek Williams, 22, of Munhall and Dorrean Watson, 30, of Pittsburgh's Chateau neighborhood.

Shapiro's office said Beasley turned over some management of the drug ring's daily operations to James Wells, 29, of North Braddock. He and two others continued to unknowingly sell the drugs to undercover officers, according to Shapiro's office.

Others charged in the ring include Patrick Sanders, 27, of Duquesne and Rand Wolford, 29, of Braddock.

Wells and three others were pulled over in May, and police found three handguns in the vehicle, including one loaded with armor-piercing bullets, Shapiro's office said.

All six men are charged with criminal conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver. Beasley, Wells, Williams and Watson also face charges relating to running corrupt organizations.

Police arrested Sanders and Williams on Thursday morning. Beasley and Watson already were in Allegheny County Jail on other charges, Shaprio said. Wells and Wolford were at large.

“This was an extremely dangerous drug organization operating in Allegheny County and surrounding areas,” said Lt. Jeffrey Korczyk of the Allegheny County Police Department's Narcotics, Vice and Intelligence Unit. “Some of our undercover agents observed these individuals making threats against police officers, but the most dangerous aspect of this criminal organization is they were knowingly putting lives at risk by selling carfentanil on our streets.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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