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Forty arrested in Westmoreland County drug sweep

| Saturday, April 28, 2012, 1:01 a.m.

A South Huntingdon personal care home operator and a Westmoreland County Courthouse employee are among the 40 people arrested during a 16-month drug investigation in the county, state police announced Wednesday.

Charlene Shawley, 55, owner of the Cedar Ridge Personal Care home on Route 31, and Beth A . Thomas, 35, of Mt. Pleasant, an employee of Westmoreland County's domestic relations department, were both charged yesterday.

Both are accused of selling drugs from or near their places of employment.

Shawley allegedly sold four bags of heroin to undercover troopers in her personal care home.

Police said when they arrested Shawley, they discovered about 500 OxyContin pills, several hundred dollars in cash, untaxed cigarettes as well as about 100 gift cards, which are often stolen and traded for drugs.

Shawley's son, Joshua Brent Marker, died last year of a drug overdose, according to the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office.

The Department of Public Welfare was called in to check on the residents of the care home after Shawley's arrest.

Welfare spokeswoman Stacey Witalec said six people live in the small care home, which has been operating since 1996.

"We are on our way to the home to determine if residents are at risk," Witalec said yesterday afternoon. "We'll determine our next step as our investigation moves forward."

Cedar Ridge was operating on its second consecutive provisional license, which means violations at the home discovered in a December 2008 inspection were not resolved six months later, Witalec said.

The violations include failing to properly secure medications, lack of training for some employees, animal feces found inside the home and a smell of pet urine inside.

Police referred all calls regarding the care home to the welfare department at 412-565-5616.

Police allege Thomas sold 17.4 grams of OxyContin pills for $240 to a confidential informant just outside of a rear entrance of the courthouse.

County Human Resources Director Chuck Dominick said officials were aware of Thomas' arrest,but could not comment on her employment status or any disciplinary action that may be taken.

State police spokesman Trooper Stephen Limani said the arrests attempt to send a message that drug sales will not be tolerated.

Limani said 84 people died of drug overdoses in Westmoreland County during the 16-month investigation. The Greensburg barracks has seen a 100 percent increase in robbery cases and a 150 percent increase in drug possession cases between this quarter and last.

Limani said state police were assisted by Greensburg police, the county Sheriff's Office, Park Police and the District Attorney's office in the investigation and roundup.

The following is a list of other people charged in the drug sweep. All were charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance as well as other related charges.

• Brandon Pundai, 30, of North Huntingdon, allegedly operated an indoor marijuana growing operation at his home. Police seized 100 marijuana plants, a large bag of dry buds, grow lights, fans and heaters, potting soil and a scale;

• Michael W. Heppner, 30, of Greensburg, 10 bags of heroin allegedly discovered in his vehicle during a traffic stop;

• Merrell E. Sager, 35, of Irwin, 25 grams of crack cocaine and two bags of heroin allegedly recovered during a search of his home;

• James Gallone, 46, of Greensburg, allegedly sold 10 OxyContin and 60 Vicodin pills to undercover troopers;

• Verna Uphold, 41, of Greensburg, allegedly sold crack cocaine to troopers;

• Orie Kistner, 39, of Greensburg, allegedly sold crack cocaine;

• Jason E. Pickford, 22, of Greensburg, allegedly sold heroin to troopers;

• Anissa Lee Moore, 22, of Whitney, allegedly sold 34 bags of heroin to troopers on four occasions;

• Sean W. Newhouse, 23, of Whitney, 72 bags of heroin allegedly recovered from his residence in conjunction with Moore investigation;

• Melvin T. Washnock, 47, of Whitney, heroin allegedly recovered from his residence in conjunction with Moore investigation;

• Donald Jeremy Rinaldi, 22, of Mt. Pleasant, 3 pounds of marijuana allegedly recovered from his residence during search;

• Dontae George Myers, 26, of Greensburg, allegedly sold OxyContin pills to undercover troopers;

• Eliot Edwards, 54, of Latrobe, alleged OxyContin sale;

• Charles Richards, no age available, of North Huntingdon, allegedly sold 10 hydrocodone and five Klonopin pills to troopers;

• Theresa Richards, no age available, of North Huntingdon, wife of Charles Richards, allegedly sold 10 hydrocodone and five Klonopin pills to troopers;

• Heather Baney, 38, of North Huntingdon, allegedly sold 2.5 grams of crack cocaine to troopers on three occasions;

• Donna Ahlborn, 45, of Wyano, allegedly sold 20 Vicodin pills;

• Alicia Levay, 26, of Loyalhanna, allegedly sold crack cocaine;

• Dwayne Edward Cohen, 46, no hometown available, allegedly sold Vicodin and Xanax to troopers;

• Heath D. Clawson, 28, of Saltsburg, alleged sale of 10 bags of heroin;

• Milton D. Paschal, 29, of New Kensington, allegedly sold crack cocaine;

• Andrew Fisher, 32, of New Kensington, allegedly sold crack cocaine;

• Shawn Karcher, 39, of New Kensington, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Jessica Baca, 22, of New Kensington, allegedly sold 12 bags of heroin to troopers;

• Dennis Yarbrough, 29, of New Kensington, allegedly sold crack cocaine to troopers;

• David Salvatore, 37, of New Kensington, allegedly sold a Fentanyl patch;

• Michael J. Haase, 51, of Stoystown, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Wendell Lamont Dixon, 36, of Pittsburgh, allegedly sold 6.5 grams of crack to troopers;

• Ericka Edwards, no age available, of Export, alleged sale of OxyContin;

• Amy Garbowsky, 36, of Export, allegedly sold 10 OxyContin pills;

• Barry Gradishek, no age available, of Greensburg, allegedly sold eight OxyContin pills;

• Joshua Rush, 23, of Derry, alleged heroin sale;

• Jasmine Jackson, 20, of New Kensington, allegedly sold 10 bags of heroin;

• Ricardo Owens, 41, of New Kensington, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Jon Modolo, 44, of New Kensington, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Brittanee Settle, 22, of New Kensington, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Deangelo Dawkins, 24, of New Kensington, alleged crack cocaine sale;

• Daniel Neal, 20, of Murrysville, allegedly sold 3.4 grams of marijuana.

All of the suspects were apprehended either yesterday or before the sweep except for Sager, Rinaldi, Levay, Clawson, Paschal, Karcher, Baca and Dixon, police said.

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