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Alleged drug/burglary ringleader pleads guilty

Published September 21. 2012 05:02PM

The alleged ringleader of a multiple count drug and burglary ring pleaded guilty Thursday in Carbon County court to six criminal counts connected with the ring.

Frank Munoz, 51, of Nesquehoning, pleaded to five counts of criminal conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of criminal conspiracy-possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Munoz was among 12 charged in connection with what the state Attorney General's office called "Operation Golden Dope."

The ring was accused of committing burglaries in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties. The stolen items would be then sold at pawn shops in Carbon and Lehigh counties with the money used to purchase illegal drugs in the Allentown area. The drugs were then resold in Carbon and other counties for profit.

At the time of the announced arrests in April 2010, authorities labeled Munoz the ringleader of the group. Among those arrested was Munoz's wife, Janet Munoz. She was recently sentenced to a year in jail for her part and is currently serving the sentence.

The pleads were accepted by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II. But before accepting the pleas there was some delay as Munoz told his court-appointed attorney, Michael P. Gough, that he changed his mind and would not enter a plea.

Gough told Nanovic that Munoz told him of this decision just prior to the start of the guilty plea hearing. Munoz told Nanovic he did not have a problem serving the minimum recommended sentence but wanted to serve it in the county prison under county probation supervision.

Nanovic told him that was not an option based on the plea bargain which called for a minimum term of 42 months. Nanovic said under state sentencing guidelines, which the court follows, the maximum term imposed must be at least double the minimum. In his case a 42 month minimum called for a maximum of at least 84 months. Any sentence with a maximum above five years must be served in a state prison.

After further discussion with Gough, Munoz decided to enter his pleas.

Most of the other defendants in the case have already gone through the system and most have already been sentenced for their part in the ring.

At the time of the arrests of the defendants the AG office said the investigation centered on Munoz.

Munoz also pleaded guilty in two other pending cases.

He pleaded to one count of simple assault for an incident that occurred on Feb. 8, 2009, in Nesquehoning with Zackary Leinhard the listed victim.

He also pleaded to one count of possession of a controlled substance-heroin, for another incident in Nesquehoning that occurred on June 22, 2009.

In the plea agreement the sentences in those cases would run concurrent to the sentence imposed on the six conspiracy counts.

Munoz has been in the county prison since his arrest and has served about 39 months.

Nanovic deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation report.

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