Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

March 3, 2006

Attorney General Corbett & D.A. Clark announce as many as 23 arrests in "Operation Front Men;" Butler area crack cocaine & heroin distribution ring

BUTLER - Attorney General Tom Corbett and Butler County District Attorney Randa Clark today announced that agents from the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation (BNI), along with local law enforcement and Pennsylvania State Police, are in the process of capturing as many as 23 suspected crack cocaine and heroin dealers operating in and around the city of Butler.

Corbett identified the central figure in the organization as Ken Digiacomo, age 41, of 540 Cornetti Road, Fenelton, who is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy, and multiple counts of drug possession and drug delivery.

Corbett said the 10-month long investigation, known as "Operation Front Men," began in May 2005 when agents from the Attorney General's office developed information about an individual involved in large-scale crack cocaine sales in the Butler area.  That individual was later identified as Digiacomo.

"This was a wide-reaching organization, selling up to two kilos, or $200,000 worth of cocaine per month on the streets of Butler," Corbett said. "The ring reached out to cocaine suppliers in Pittsburgh, New Castle and Youngstown, Ohio, based on who could provide the best price and availability of drugs."

Corbett said agents used court-ordered wiretaps, video and audio surveillance, controlled drug purchases, search warrants and other investigative methods to identify members of this drug organization.  Evidence and testimony about drug activity was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed today. 

The grand jury found that Digiacomo was cooking powder cocaine into crack cocaine for distribution through a number of mid-level and street-level dealers in the Butler area. 

Corbett said Digiacomo would often get his cocaine "on the front," or in advance of payment, with the agreement that his suppliers would be paid after the drugs were sold.    The grand jury found that Digiacomo would also "front" crack cocaine to Butler area dealers, with payment to be made when those drugs were sold on the street.   

Additionally, the grand jury found that Digiacomo and others would also "middle" or broker other drug deals, serving as the middle-man by delivering heroin or cocaine and collecting payment for drug suppliers.    

"This was a tight-knit group," Corbett said, "trusting each other with thousands of dollars worth of drugs, and also trusting that payment would be made in a timely manner." 

"This was an organized business and an organized crime," Corbett said, "and that is exactly how we are charging the defendants today."

Operation Front Men -March2006The drug organization 

Corbett said the grand jury found that Digiacomo was a major supplier of crack cocaine in the Butler area, obtaining bulk quantities of powder cocaine and "cooking" it into crack for local distribution.

Corbett said Digiacomo used several mid-level dealers to assist in the distribution of crack cocaine, including Dave Sherman, Kerry Yartz and Terry Mulneix, all of Butler.

The grand jury found that Digiacomo and others also supplied crack cocaine to a number of street-level dealers and users, including Julie Walker, of Chicora, and Dave Davenport, Kirsten Huf, Shirley Donley, Christopher Ray and Lisa Preston, all of Butler.

Corbett said one of Digiacomo's alleged cocaine suppliers was Bryan Doller, of Slippery Rock.  In addition to supplying cocaine to Digiacomo, the grand jury also found that Doller "cooked" powder cocaine into crack and distributed the drug through a number of his own dealers.

Corbett said Ken McGallis, of Slippery Rock, served as a mid-level dealer for Doller.  McGallis also allegedly acted as an intermediary for some drug transactions between Doller and Digiacomo, delivering drugs at predetermined meeting places.

The grand jury found that several other individuals served as street-level dealers for Doller, including Carrie Vliek, Mary McDonald, Santos Torres-Olan, Jason Robison and Andy Palace, all of Butler.

Corbett said Digiacomo also purchased cocaine from two Pittsburgh sources, Jibreel Muhammad and a second individual, known as "J." 

The grand jury found that William Ireland, of Butler, provided transportation for Muhammad and "J" between Pittsburgh and Butler in exchange for heroin and also served as a middle-man for cocaine deals between Muhammad and Digiacomo.

Corbett said agents also identified several drug users who were being supplied by the organization, including Holly Fedokovitz, of Lyndora and Joe Bratkovich, of Butler.

The flow of drugs   

The grand jury found that Digiacomo was purchasing cocaine from several different sources, including Bryan Dollar, Jibreel Muhammad and "J."  Digiacomo allegedly "cooked" the cocaine into crack and distributed it through a network of Butler area dealers.

Corbett said that in addition to supplying Digiacomo with cocaine, Doller also allegedly "cooked" powder cocaine into crack for distribution through his own network of mid-level and street-level dealers. 

The grand jury found that Doller was obtaining his cocaine from an un-named source in New Castle, PA.  

Additionally, Corbett said Digiacomo had two Pittsburgh sources for drugs: Jibreel Muhammad and an individual known as "J". 

Digiacomo allegedly arranged transportation for Muhammad or provided vehicles for Muhammad in order to secure a continuing supply of cocaine.

Corbett said that Muhammad also used Digiacomo to distribute heroin to individuals in the Butler area. Digiacomo served as the "middle-man" in these deals, delivering the drugs and accepting payment for Muhammad.   The grand jury also found that Digiacomo purchased cocaine from two un-named sources in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as from Genevieve Kilroy, of Butler. 

Corbett said price and availability were driving factors in determining who the drugs were purchased from.  During intercepted telephone calls, Digiacomo argued with drug suppliers over the prices they were charging, claiming "I can get it cheaper than that?" or "you're killin' me."

Corbett said that during the course of the investigation BNI agents made a series of controlled drug purchases from Ken Digiacomo. Agents and local police also executed a series of searches based on intercepted information about pending drug transactions.

Corbett said that on Nov. 10, 2005, officers from the Buffalo Township Police Department stopped and searched a vehicle operated by Jibreel Muhammad.  That search resulted in the seizure of 106 grams of cocaine hidden in a container in the vehicle, along with a small amount of marijuana.

Corbett said that on Nov. 16, 2005, BNI agents and officers attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Bryan Doller along Route 422 in Butler County.  Rather than stopping, Doller allegedly rammed two undercover police vehicles, crossed the grass median of the highway and attempted to flee at high speed. 

Corbett noted that intercepted telephone conversations involving Doller allegedly indicated that Doller was aware that the unmarked vehicles he rammed were driven by law enforcement officers.  The officers in those cars were not seriously injured but both vehicles suffered a substantial amount of damage.

Corbett said that following a short chase Doller abandoned his vehicle in the Moraine State Park, tossing a bag of suspected cocaine into the underbrush as he fled on foot.  He was apprehended a short time later and taken into custody.

A search of Doller's vehicle resulted in the seizure of cocaine and a .38 caliber handgun.  Corbett said approximately 80 grams of cocaine was seized following the November 16 chase involving Doller.

A search of Doller's home the following day resulted in the seizure of additional crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia and .38 caliber ammunition.  Corbett noted that because of prior criminal convictions for robbery and related offenses Doller was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

On Dec. 21, 2005, BNI agents and Pennsylvania state troopers conducted a "reverse" drug delivery operation involving Doller.  During a meeting at a Butler hotel, Doller allegedly paid $2,000 as partial payment for five ounces of suspected crack cocaine. 

Corbett said agents and officers confronted Doller as he exited the hotel room.  Doller allegedly threw the cocaine on the floor and attempted to flee on foot through the hotel hallways, but he was apprehended a short time later.

On Dec. 5, 2005, BNI agents and Pennsylvania state troopers executed a search at Digiacomo's Butler County home, seizing cocaine, marijuana, drug packaging materials and drug paraphernalia, along with "owe sheets" indicating money owed by individuals for various drug transactions. 

Corbett said the investigation into this drug network, especially concerning cocaine sources in New Castle, Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, is ongoing and future arrests are expected.

Corbett thanked Butler County District Attorney Randa Clark along with the Pennsylvania State Police for their assistance with this investigation.  He also thanked members of the Butler County District Attorney's Drug Task Force and Butler County Sheriff's Office, along with the police departments from the City of Butler, Buffalo Township, Cranberry Township, Evans City, Penn Township, Slippery Rock and Zelienople for their assistance with today's arrests.

Corbett said the defendants will be preliminarily arraigned today before Butler Magisterial District Judge Peter Shaffer. 

The defendants will be prosecuted in Butler County by Deputy Attorney General Christopher M. Capozzi of the Attorney General's Drug Strike Force.

Below is a list of the defendants and the charges filed against them:

Joseph Bratkovich, 29, 205 E. Christy Ave., Butler, is charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance.

David Davenport, 34, 328½ S. Washington St., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Ken Digiacomo, 41, 540 Cornetti Road, Fenelton, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, 22 counts of possession of a controlled substance, 22 counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance, one count of making false reports to law enforcement and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Bryan Doller, 24, 732 Buttercup Lane, Slippery Rock, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, 17 counts of possession of a controlled substance, 17 counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance, six counts of aggravated assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, two counts of criminal mischief, one count of corruption of minors, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Shirley Donley, 39, 704 W. New Castle St., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Holly Fedokovitz, 37, 180 Whitestown Road, Lyndora, is charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance.

Kirsten Huf, 27, 481 Chicora Road, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

William Ireland, 36, 118 Remil Drive, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

"J" (name/address unknown) is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, three counts of possession of a controlled substance and three counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

Genevieve Kilroy, 25, 323 Fairview Ave., Butler, is charged with one count of conspiracy.

Mary McDonald, 38, 213 Wiltshire Ave., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Kenneth McGallis, 52, 743 Angelspur Lane, Slippery Rock, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, eight counts of possession of a controlled substance and eight counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

Jibreel Hasan Muhammad, 21, 812 Taylor Way, Wilkinsburg, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, six counts of possession of a controlled substance, six counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Terry Mulneix, 50, 639 W. New Castle Road, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

Andrew Palace, 37, 228 S. Duffy Road, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy and one count of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

Lisa Preston, 37, 576 Keck Road, Butler, is charged with one count of conspiracy.

Christopher Ray, 32, 576 Keck Road, Butler, is charged with one count of conspiracy.

Jason Robison, 23, 622 Eau Claire St., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Dave Sherman, 42, 331 W. North Road, Apt. #10, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.
 
Santos Torres-Olan, 28, 309 Virginia Ave., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Julie Walker, 36, 126 Front St., Chicora, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

Carrie Vliek, 36, 102½ Third Ave., Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of conspiracy.

Kerry Yartz, 44, 100 Espy Lane, Butler, is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and four counts of possession with intent to deliver/delivery of a controlled substance.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)

###

Editors' Note: Photos of the defendants and copies of the grand jury presentment are available by contacting the Attorney General's Press Office at 717-787-5211.