Twelve individuals were charged in Carbon County Tuesday for taking part in a drug and burglary ring that has been operating in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties for the last few years.
The street value of the drugs distributed is estimated to be over $1 million.
Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias announced the arrests at a news conference Tuesday morning.
He said that "Operation Golden Dope," which was organized by the state Attorney General's Office and Carbon County Drug Task Force in December 2007, was successful because "of an exchange of information and intelligence among local law enforcement," which included police surveillance, electronic wire tap surveillance, and supervised and controlled purchases."
"These arrests illustrate the need for continuity in drug enforcement and for the cooperation and coordination of police activity among law enforcement," Dobias said. "I believe that today's arrests will impact the distribution of illegal drugs and stolen property in our area. Carbon County and the related areas are no different than the rest of Pennsylvania and probably the entire nation. Heroin is a real problem."
The individuals arrested include Robert Cesanek, 23, Edward Cesanek, 29, John Joseph Aleksiejczyk, 40, and Wayne Thomas Thorpe, 45, all of 71 W. Catawissa St., Nesquehoning; Victor Anthony Rodriguez, 54, currently incarcerated in the Lehigh County Correctional Facility; Zachary Robert Lienhard, 19, of 114 Willow Lane, Nesquehoning; Jonathon Nicholas Maury, 22, of 38 E. Ridge St., Lansford; Amanda Dawn Rogers, 21, of 12 E. Phillip St., Coaldale; Waheeb Girgis, 55, of 131-133 N. First St., Lehighton; and Donald H. Dorward Sr., 64, and Daniel Michael Eremus, 64, both of 780 Rock St., Lehighton.
Kira Cesanek, 28, of 359 W. Catawissa St., Nesquehoning, had not yet been taken into custody as of the news conference, Dobias said, adding that they hope to have her in custody shortly.
Dobias noted that each of the individuals involved played various roles in obtaining and distribution of heroin in the area.
Some committed numerous home burglaries throughout the four counties; while others sold the items and purchased, transported, and distributed the drugs from the Lehigh Valley area.
Dobias said that the defendants were arraigned before District Judge Casimir Kosciolek of Lansford Tuesday and a preliminary hearing has been set for later this month.
According to a press release from Attorney General Tom Corbett's office, the investigation focused on a Frank Munoz, who is expected to be charged next week for his participation in the ring. He enlisted the help of five individuals Janet Munoz, who will also be charged next week; Thorpe, Robert Cesanek, Kira Cesanek, and Edward Cesanek to commit a series of burglaries in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties.
Edward and Kira were arrested in early 2009 by Tamaqua and West Penn Township police for an attempted burglary in West Penn Township. Edward was also charged with three burglaries in Carbon. He pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced in Carbon County court yesterday.
After the burglaries occurred, Munoz would pawn the stolen items at two Lehighton pawn shops, Don's Coins, owned and operated by Dorward and Eremus; and Girgis Jewelers, owned by Girgis.
Corbett said that the team believed Eremus, Dorward and Girgis "were fully aware the items they were purchasing were stolen, and therefore consider them to be accessories to this criminal enterprise."
The money obtained through the sale of the stolen items was then taken to the Lehigh Valley area, where heroin was purchased from three dealers, including Rodriguez, and two unknown males. The drugs were then transported back into Carbon County and resold.
Dobias recognized the members of law enforcement that were involved in the investigation. In addition to the Attorney General's office and Carbon County Drug Task Force, law enforcement agencies involved include the Lehighton Borough Police Department, Nesquehoning Borough Police Department, Lehigh Township Police Department, South Whitehall Township Police Department, and West Penn Township Police Department.
"I would like to praise the efforts of the local law enforcement that put this together," he said before thanking everyone for their cooperation. "This (the cooperation between local law enforcement agencies) is an important weapon that we have in the fight against illegal drugs and crime generally."