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Pennsylvania

Corbett says W.Pa., Central America linked by drug ring

| Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008

State authorities have crushed an alleged cocaine and marijuana ring that stretched from Texas to Indiana County, investigators said Monday.

Nine people have been arrested and charged with crimes ranging from participating in a corrupt organization to delivery of a controlled substance.

They allegedly poured $2.5 million worth of cocaine and marijuana into Western Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett said. The investigation -- dubbed "Operation Rio Hondo" for the Texas city where a key suspect lived -- lasted from January 2007 until August, he said.

Using drug sources from Mexico and Central America along with drug suppliers in Texas, Virginia and Pittsburgh, the drug ring pumped more than 70 kilos of cocaine and several hundred pounds of marijuana onto the streets of Indiana and surrounding communities, Corbett said.

The man authorities identified as the ringleader of the operation, Robert Hockenberry, 53, of Indiana County, died of a heart attack in mid-September, Corbett spokesman Nils Fredericksen said.

Sofia Ortega Rodriguez, 37, of Rio Hondo served as Hockenberry's contact with Mexican and El Salvadoran drug cartels, Corbett said. She was arrested over the weekend during a traffic stop in Indiana County and is being held there on $500,000 bond, Corbett said.

Jose Villalta-Trejo, 31, of Manassas, Va., took shipments of cocaine and marijuana from Rodriguez and delivered them to Hockenberry, investigators said. He also was arrested over the weekend and is being held in the Indiana County Jail on $200,000 bond, Fredericksen said.

Arrested yesterday were Jacob Reesman, 29, and Christopher Shuglie, 30, both of Blawnox; David Dalessio, 42, and Melvin Dalessio, 48, both of Indiana County; Lisa McCauley, 44, and Jeffrey Stewart, 43, both of Clarion; and Calvin Troup Jr., 33, of Indiana. All are being held on $100,000 bond.

Corbett said investigators from at least 20 different agencies used undercover agents, wire tapping, surveillance and confidential informants to build their case. He said agents have audio recordings of Hockenberry talking to confidential informants and others in the "boiler room" of his Indiana home, where he is heard counting out drugs and money for buyers.

During the course of the investigation, authorities seized a kilo of cocaine, $91,000 in cash, five firearms, a pound of marijuana and a vehicle used to transport the drugs and cash, Corbett said.

"This is a great example of what the agencies can accomplish by working together," Indiana County District Attorney Tomas Bianco said. "It's a special interest to me to stop the flow of drugs into Indiana County."

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