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Operation Postage Stamp

  • BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Carbon County District Attorney Gary F. Dobias announced the arrest of 11 county residents on drug charges for allegedly smuggling illegal substances into the county prison by using mail sent to inmates. Behind Dobias, on the…
    BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Carbon County District Attorney Gary F. Dobias announced the arrest of 11 county residents on drug charges for allegedly smuggling illegal substances into the county prison by using mail sent to inmates. Behind Dobias, on the left, is prison warden Joseph Gross, and Special Agent Kenneth Bellis of the attorney general's office.
Published March 22. 2011 05:00PM

Eleven persons were arrested Monday, including five inmates, by agents of the state attorney general's office for smuggling illegal drugs into the Carbon County prison. Prosecutors said the prescription narcotics were smuggled into the prison via the inmates' incoming mail.

District Attorney Gary F. Dobias, along with acting Attorney General Bill Ryan, made the announcement of the arrests at a news conference held at the county's communications center at the county prison.

Dobias said the investigation into the activity was labeled "Operation Postage Stamp." He said it began in January when the prison warden, Joseph Gross, intercepted three letters containing a Suboxone underneath the letters' stamps.

Dobias said the drug Suboxone, which is used to treat heroin addiction, is commonly produced in pill form, but now is being manufactured in thin, film-like strips, very similar to the popular breath freshening strips.

According to Dobias the intercepted letters were addressed to inmates Michael Kent, Kermit Sponheimer and Chad Hartsell.

Investigators said agents of the AG's office reviewed and intercepted numerous telephone conversations recorded from the prison phones and were able to identify two additional inmates and six others, family members and/or girlfriends who were allegedly conspiring to smuggle the Suboxone into the prison.

The other two inmates allegedly involved were identified as Daniel Thorpe and James Dennis.

Ryan thanked Dobias and his staff for their assistance in the investigation and said that the Carbon DA would prosecute the cases.

Those charged included:

Chad Hartsell, 29, currently an inmate at the prison, is charged with one count each of criminal attempt to possess controlled substance (CS) contraband by a prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility, criminal conspiracy to possess a CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal attempt to unlawfully possess a CS and criminal solicitation to commit contraband to confined persons.

Kristin Gemmel, 26, of 625 Franklin Ave., Palmerton, is charged with one count each of furnishing CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish CS contraband to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

Daniel Thorpe, 25, currently an inmate at the prison, is charged with two counts of criminal attempt to possess a CS contraband by a prisoner, and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit possession of a CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal solicitation to commit contraband to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

Kaitlyn Hill, 22, of 1763 Hemlock Drive, Lehighton, is charged with one count each of criminal attempt to commit CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to commit CS to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

Michael Kent, 25, currently an inmate at the county prison, is charged with one count each of criminal attempt to possess CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility and criminal conspiracy to possess CS contraband by a prisoner.

Goergetta Perez, 49, of 239 E. Catawissa St., Nesquehoning, is charged with one count each of furnishing CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish CS to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

James Dennis, 25, currently an inmate at the Lehigh County prison, is charged with one count each of possession of a CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility and criminal conspiracy to possess CS contraband by a prisoner.

Michael Dennis, 24, of 725 N. First St., Lehighton, is charged with one count each of criminal attempt to furnish CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to commit CS contraband to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

Kristin Tyahla, 22, of 12A Fairyland Rd., Lehighton, is charged with one count each of furnishing CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish CS contraband to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

Kermit Sponheimer, 59, currently an inmate at the county prison, is charged with one count each of criminal attempt to possess CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility, criminal conspiracy to possess CS contraband by a prisoner, criminal attempt to commit unlawful possession of CS and criminal solicitation to commit contraband to confined persons.

Kory Sponheimer, 23, of 151 W. Columbus Ave., Nesquehoning, is charged with one count each of furnishing CS contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish CS contraband to confined persons and criminal use of a communication facility.

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