Police dog, GPS trackers help FBI nab trio accused in Harrisburg-Pittsburgh heroin ring
A police dog, cellphone location data and GPS tracking devices covertly planted on vehicles helped authorities apprehend two men and one woman from Western Pennsylvania accused of trafficking large amounts of heroin and cocaine from Harrisburg into Pittsburgh, court records show.
Harvey Hicks, 48, of Penn Hills faces drug, conspiracy and firearms charges, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in federal court.
Breanna Bane, 26, of Monroeville , and Matthew Pearson, 44, of Somerset are accused of assisting Hicks in the conspiracy to acquire and sell the illegal street drugs.
Police say Bane, who is formerly of North Versailles, is Hicks’ girlfriend.
Investigators with the FBI and state police apprehended the trio on Wednesday afternoon, after investigators followed two of their cars from a hotel in Hershey along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a parking lot in Monroeville.
A police dog helped officials find a duffel bag in the back seat of one of their two cars containing more than 600 “bricks” of heroin — enough to fill more than 30,000 stamp bags, the small wax or paper packets used to sell heroin in amounts of 0.1-gram or more, the complaint said.
Authorities had been spying on the suspects and their whereabouts since receiving a tip in early January, according to the complaint. Officers watched their homes and got a judge’s permission to track their phones’ movements and to attach GPS trackers on their cars.
Last month, officials managed to plant a GPS device on a Suzuki Grand Vitara registered to Pearson, but they were unable to do so on a GMC Terrain driven by Hicks “because the vehicle could not be located at a time and place in which it could install surreptitiously,” the complaint said.
On Wednesday morning, the tracker showed that Pearson’s Suzuki was on the Turnpike headed toward Harrisburg, the complaint said.
Officials followed the car to the Hilton Garden Inn in Hershey, where they saw Hicks leave the hotel carrying a large, black duffel bag, the complaint said.
Hicks placed the duffel bag beside two brown paper shopping bags on the ground next to his GMC Terrain, the complaint said. When Pearson approached, Hicks handed him the duffel bag and Pearson placed it in the Suzuki.
Then both cars left the hotel and got back on the Turnpike headed toward Pittsburgh.
Investigators followed the cars and made contact with the suspects in a parking lot along Monroeville Boulevard. It was just south of William Penn Highway in Monroeville, where officials knew Bane had been living since her recent move from North Versailles.
Their pattern of travel mimicked prior suspicious encounters that investigators had observed in early April, the complaint said.
Investigators believed the three suspects intended to go inside Bane’s house, divide the heroin among themselves and then have Hicks take the rest of the drugs to his home in Penn Hills, the complaint said.
After allegedly finding more than 600 bricks of suspected heroin or fentanyl in the Suzuki’s back seat, officials obtained warrants to search the suspects’ homes and storage units.
A search of Hicks’ home turned up an ounce of cocaine, $25,290 in cash, multiple cellphones; a search of his Verona storage unit revealed an AK-47 rifle and three pistols, the complaint said.
Hicks is prohibited from owning a firearm because he is a convicted felon.
At Bane’s Monroeville apartment, officials allegedly found 13 bricks of suspected heroin, or enough to fill 650 stamp bags; a large number of empty stamp bags; multiple cellphones; another AR-15 rifle and three more pistols.
Officials found three more heroin bricks — enough to fill 150 stamp bags — inside Pearson’s Somerset residence, according to the complaint.
The Pennsylvania State Police Drug Law Enforcement Division assisted the FBI in the investigation.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .