At least 23 people took part in a $200,000-a-month cocaine-selling ring in Butler County, according to authorities, and most of them were arrested yesterday following a 10-month investigation.
State Attorney General Tom Corbett announced that court-ordered wiretaps, video and audio surveillance, drug purchases and other means were used by his investigators and law enforcement agencies throughout Butler County to bust an organization allegedly headed by Ken Digiacomo, 41, of Fenelton.
A statewide investigating grand jury recommended criminal charges against him and 22 others for drug-related offenses.
The organization had ties to suppliers in Pittsburgh, New Castle and Youngstown and funneled cocaine and heroin from them to middlemen and street sellers throughout Butler County, Mr. Corbett said.
The grand jury said Mr. Digiacomo would cook bulk quantities of powder cocaine into crack, and had agreements with both suppliers and lower-level dealers to exchange the drugs and have them paid for only after being sold on the street for about $100 a gram.
"This was a tight-knit group, trusting each other with thousands of dollars worth of drugs, thousands of dollars in debts, and also trusting that payment would be made in a timely manner," the attorney general said.
Mr. Corbett said extensive drugs and other information related to the case were found in a search of Mr. Digiacomo's home Dec. 5.
"This was an organized business and an organized crime," he said.
"This was Economics 101. If they'd put their energies into legitimate business, they could make a decent living."
Mr. Digiacomo was previously convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, delivery of drugs, possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence, a deputy attorney general said. The new charges against him include conspiracy, participating in a corrupt organization and multiple counts of drug possession and delivery.
Also among those arraigned before Butler District Judge Peter Shaffer after morning arrests were two men identified as key suppliers to the drug organization.
They are Jibreel Hasan Muhammad, 21, of Wilkinsburg, who faced charges similar to Mr. Digiacomo's, and Bryan Doller, 24, of Slippery Rock, who faced the same charges plus aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, corruption of minors and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Mr. Doller was previously convicted of robbery. Drugs and other evidence allegedly were found in his home Nov. 17.
Also charged with conspiracy, corrupt organization, drug delivery and possession were: Dave Sherman, 42, of Butler; Kenneth McGallis, 52, of Slippery Rock; Terry Mulneix, 50, of Butler; Julie Walker, 36, of Chicora; and Kerry Yartz, 44, of Butler.
Mr. Sherman and Mr. McGallis were apprehended yesterday, and the others were being sought.
Andrew Palace, 37, of Butler, was arrested and charged with conspiracy, corrupt organization and drug delivery.
Charged with conspiracy and corrupt organization were David Davenport, 34, of Butler; William Ireland, 36, of Butler; Santos Torres-Olan, 28, of Butler; Kirsten Huf, 27, of Butler; Shirley Donley, 39, of Butler; Mary McDonald, 38, of Butler; Jason Robison, 23, of Butler; and Carrie Vliek, 36, of Butler. Robison and Vliek were still being sought late yesterday.
Also arrested yesterday for conspiracy were Christopher Ray, 32, Lisa Preston, 37, and Genevieve Kilroy, 25, all of Butler. Joseph Bratkovich, 29, of Butler, and Holly Fedokovitz, 37, of Lyndora, were arrested and charged with drug possession.
Police also were seeking a suspect known only as "J," believed to be from the Pittsburgh area, who faces the full range of charges.
Gary Rotstein can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1255.