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Westmoreland

New drug crime team makes impact in Westmoreland, Southwest Pennsylvania

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Members of the Troop A Community Enforcement Team, along with county and New Kensington detectives are honored by the Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.
Members of the Troop A Community Enforcement Team, along with county and New Kensington detectives are honored by the Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.
A package of suspected carfentanil that police seized in Unity on May 3. (Pennsylvania State Police photo)
Pennsylvania State Police
A package of suspected carfentanil that police seized in Unity on May 3. (Pennsylvania State Police photo)
State police charged Maurice Jeffrey Johnson, 28, of North Braddock with carrying crack cocaine worth $30,000 in magnetic boxes, a stolen gun and $5,000 in Jeannette.
State police charged Maurice Jeffrey Johnson, 28, of North Braddock with carrying crack cocaine worth $30,000 in magnetic boxes, a stolen gun and $5,000 in Jeannette.
State police charged Maurice Jeffrey Johnson, 28, of North Braddock with carrying crack cocaine worth $30,000 in magnetic boxes, a stolen gun and $5,000 in Jeannette.
State police charged Maurice Jeffrey Johnson, 28, of North Braddock with carrying crack cocaine worth $30,000 in magnetic boxes, a stolen gun and $5,000 in Jeannette.
The Westmoreland County Coroner's Office said drug overdoses in the county broke a record last year, with a large portion of fatal overdoses involving heroin laced with fentanyl.
Submitted
The Westmoreland County Coroner's Office said drug overdoses in the county broke a record last year, with a large portion of fatal overdoses involving heroin laced with fentanyl.
State police in Greensburg and Westmoreland County detectives seized 150 bricks of heroin valued at $75,000 during a drug bust Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in New Stanton.
State police in Greensburg and Westmoreland County detectives seized 150 bricks of heroin valued at $75,000 during a drug bust Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in New Stanton.
About 2 1/2 pounds of crystal meth that was seized by police from the Unity home of George Wurthman.
Pennsylvania State Police
About 2 1/2 pounds of crystal meth that was seized by police from the Unity home of George Wurthman.
Guns seized from the Unity home of George Wurthman.
Pennsylvania State Police
Guns seized from the Unity home of George Wurthman.

In its short existence, a team of local investigators has diverted half a million dollars worth of drugs destined for distribution in southwest Pennsylvania.

It has seized 18,985 grams of 10 types of drugs and made 69 arrests between March — when the team formed — and August, according to state police records. Those cases netted six vehicles, 13 weapons and $267,227 in cash.

“I'm pleased with the results,” said state police Capt. Thomas Dubovi, commander of Troop A. “They're an amazing group.”

Westmoreland County Commissioners this week recognized the Troop A Community Enforcement Team for six months of collaboration.

The group is comprised of five troopers, two county detectives and a New Kensington detective. It has worked with police in the Troop A coverage area — five stations in Westmoreland, Indiana, Somerset and Cambria counties — to share information and beef up manpower to make arrests and serve search warrants.

“We recognized that we need to take a different approach to the drug problems in the troop area,” Dubovi said. “The road trooper doesn't have the time.”

The approach has been to focus on major sources of drug trafficking. Troopers Paul Detruf, Zach DelSordo, Anthony Arbaczewski and Nick Pelc, overseen by Cpl. John Isoldi, target drug enforcement daily. Dubovi said he hopes to rotate in other troopers.

“I don't think we've seen this type of cooperation among multiple agencies for a long time,” District Attorney John Peck said. “The results have been really fruitful. Their work has really had some excellent results.”

Many troops in Pennsylvania have similar teams that conduct “high-intensity patrols” for drug interdiction, roads where crashes occur frequently or specific areas targeted by criminals, said Cpl. Adam Reed, state police spokesman in Harrisburg.

“Each area of the state is going to be different,” Reed said.

County detectives Tony Marcocci and Ray Dupilka, along with New Kensington Detective Sam Long, work alongside the troopers.

“The formation of this unit and the working relationship between our agencies has been instrumental in our ability to target major sources of controlled substances being distributed into Westmoreland County,” Dupilka said.

Significant arrests have included:

• A North Braddock man in May who police said had about 300 grams of crack cocaine worth $30,000 in an area where Hempfield, Jeannette and Penn Borough connect. Some of the drugs were found in magnetic boxes underneath the suspect's car, police said. The team has seized a total of 3,451 grams of cocaine.

• Two undocumented immigrants were arrested in June after they exited the turnpike at the New Stanton interchange and authorities found 7,500 stamp bags of heroin in their car. They were traveling from Philadelphia, police said. The team has seized a total of 359 grams of heroin.

• About 21⁄2 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 136 marijuana plants were seized from a Unity man's home in April, making it the largest such crystal methamphetamine bust in the area, police said.

• Five grams of deadly synthetic opioid and elephant tranquilizer carfentanil was taken from a Unity apartment in May. The drug can be mixed with other powdery substances and was enough to make the equivalent of 30,000 to 50,000 stamp bags of heroin, police said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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