By Edward Lewis firstname.lastname@example.orgStaff Writer KINGSTON – Suspected buyers and low-level dealers of a $3.6 million cocaine trafficking ring busted nearly a year ago where charged Thursday in the second phase of an undercover narcotics investigation, state Attorney General said.
The investigation, known as “Operation Avalanche,” began in 2008, resulting in the March arrests of 22 people, including members of the local Outlaws motorcycle club that was based in Ashley. Corbett said 12 people were charged Thursday with various drug offenses on allegations they purchased quantities of cocaine from those charged nearly a year ago. “This wide-reaching organization distributed and sold more than $3.6 million worth of cocaine, serving as a major drug pipeline into Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Corbett stated in a news release. “We believe that (Thursday’s) arrests, combined with the 22 drug dealers arrested last March during the first phase of the investigation, have completely dismantled this well-organized drug network.” The Outlaws club house at 128 N. Main St., Ashley, was condemned shortly after state narcotic agents executed a search warrant in March. Charged with various drug offenses on Thursday were: Robert Gris, 51, Keyser Avenue, Old Forge; Mary Jo Piasecki, 35, Harveys Lake; Brian Cook, 37, Dana Street, Wilkes-Barre; Thomas Tranell, 49, East Grove Street, Kingston; Robert Mashinski, 52, Wilkes Lane, Wilkes-Barre; Brian Handy, 38, River Street, Wilkes-Barre; Deborah Rattray, 52, North Main Street, Wilkes-Barre; Patricia Watkins, 49, South Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre; Santana John, 38, South Meade Street, Wilkes-Barre; Aubrey Keatts, 29, South Meade Street, Wilkes-Barre; John Kindler, 54, South Main Road, Mountain Top; and Kelly Barton, 25, Pulaski Street, Nanticoke. They were arraigned by District Judge Paul Roberts in Kingston. Details about their involvement in the trafficking ring are outlined in a 122-page criminal complaint. Court-authorized wiretaps that recorded hundreds of cell phone calls, and undercover surveillance allegedly showed those charged on Thursday arranged to buy cocaine, mostly from John Ricci, 37, of Hanover Township, at various locations in Wilkes-Barre, Hanover Township and Mountain Top in January and February 2009. Ricci allegedly had daily contact with Ronald Molnar, 38, of Wilkes-Barre, about cocaine sales, according to the criminal complaint. Undercover narcotic agents identified Anthony Manchio, 50, of Wapwallopen, as the main cocaine supplier to Ricci and Molnar, the criminal complaint says. Ricci, Molnar and Manchio are facing a variety of drug charges in Luzerne County Court.