A Fayette County man already charged in connection with one of the largest cocaine trafficking organizations in the region’s history was ordered held in the Westmoreland County Prison without bail Wednesday after, police say, he tried to break into a Greensburg apartment.
Tyler M. Benefield, 34, of Connellsville was arrested after 5 a.m. Wednesday and charged with criminal trespass, conspiracy, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia by Greensburg police, according to court documents.
Benefield was arrested with another Fayette County man — Matthew Garner, 24, of Vanderbilt — as they fled in a van after breaking into a Walnut Avenue apartment, according to patrolman Kenneth Burke. Garner is also charged with criminal trespass and conspiracy charges.
According to court documents, Benefield and Garner were pulled over at 2:10 a.m., prior to the break-in, on Spruce Street. City Patrolman Reginald Harbarger said a 2001 blue Ford van Benefield was driving had an obscured license plate. Harbarger also said Benefield was driving on a suspended license and had a digital scale in his possession and suspected drug paraphernalia.
Burke said police later were dispatched to the Walnut Avenue apartment to investigate a report of “two men kicking the door” to enter.
Police said the two men fled the apartment as police arrived and, when Benefield was pulled over on North Main Street, “he initially denied being in the area of 325 Walnut Ave.”
Police took photographs of the damage to the door and a resident identified both Benefield and Garner as the men who kicked in the door.
District Judge Chris Flanigan refused to set bail for Benefield, saying she believes he is a danger to the community and is on federal court supervision pending trial on the cocaine trafficking charges, according to court records.
Benefield was indicted in the two-year federal drug investigation in April 2018, along with 38 co-conspirators.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady described the bust as one of the largest of its kind in Western Pennsylvania, at a time when “cocaine is making a comeback in this region.”
The cross-country drug ring that Benefield is accused of being part of stretched from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and included a federal prison inmate who continued to coordinate and communicate with co-conspirators while detained, Brady said.
Prosecutors said the ring was run by brothers, Jamie Lightfoot Jr., 26, of Verona, and Deaubre Lightfoot, 28, of Monessen, and interstate drug trafficker Don Juan Mendoza, formerly of Lawrenceville, Ga. They moved the drugs, which included heroin, cocaine and marijuana, into Western Pennsylvania via either a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van or a large RV.
Flanigan scheduled a preliminary hearing for July 11 on the latest charges.