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

April 11, 2006

Attorney General Corbett, DA Lupas announce break up of $1 million Luzerne County marijuana ring

WILKES-BARRE - Attorney General Tom Corbett and Luzerne County District Attorney Dave Lupas today announced that agents from the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation (BNI), along with Luzerne County Drug Task Force officers, have in custody 12 of 13 alleged drug dealers operating in Luzerne County.  The drug ring is responsible for distributing more than 500 pounds of marijuana worth up to $1 million in Luzerne County.

Corbett said the investigation, known as "Operation Family Ties," was initiated in July 2004 after a drug-related shooting in Edwardsville involving Michael Hughes, and his mother, Kathryn Hughes, both of Kingston. 

Corbett said on the day of the shooting, police officers searched Kathryn Hughes' vehicle and seized approximately two ounces of marijuana.  While investigating the shooting, members of the Luzerne County Drug Task Force conducted numerous interviews and received evidence that Michael and Kathryn Hughes, and others, were traveling to New York City on a weekly basis to obtain multiple-pound quantities of marijuana which they distributed in Luzerne County.

Corbett said prosecutors from his office presented the case before a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which recommended that he file criminal charges.

Corbett said the grand jury found that in 2003 Michael Hughes allegedly obtained marijuana from Christopher Fell of Hanover Township.  Fell, who had a number of his own marijuana customers, was obtaining multiple-pound quantities of marijuana from Alhaji Samba of Wilkes-Barre.  The grand jury found that Michael Hughes began obtaining multiple-pound quantities of marijuana directly from Samba, when Fell was incarcerated on charges unrelated to the investigation.

Corbett said his agents estimate that Michael Hughes obtained approximately more than 200 pounds of marijuana from Samba over an18-month period from 2002 through the spring of 2004.

Corbett said the grand jury found that Michael Hughes had developed his own marijuana customers and distribution network throughout Luzerne County and operated his marijuana business from his Kingston home where he lived with his mother, Kathryn Hughes.

The grand jury found that Matthew Riggs of Edwardsville and Ryan Rushton of Kingston, were two of Michael Hughes key lieutenants.  Hughes would often "front" or sell on consignment, marijuana to Riggs and Rushton, who would then sell the marijuana to their own set of customers.

Corbett said the grand jury found that Kathryn Hughes, assisted her son, Michael Hughes with his marijuana business and delivered marijuana to his customers.

Michael allegedly would call his mother on the telephone and direct her to deliver specific amounts of marijuana to customers who were coming over to their house to buy the drug. 

Operation Family TiesThe grand jury found that as Hughes expanded his marijuana business, he came in contact with a marijuana supplier in Bronx, New York, who could sell him bulk marijuana at a cheaper price than Samba.

The grand jury found that Michael Hughes, Kathryn Hughes, Christopher Fell and others would travel to Bronx, New York, every Sunday and obtain between 10- and 15 pounds of marijuana from the Bronx based supplier. 

The grand jury found that Michael Hughes and Fell divided the multiple-pounds of marijuana into smaller quantities for distribution to their customers. 

Corbett said the grand jury also found that Michael Hughes was involved in both using and selling cocaine and crack cocaine.  The grand jury found that Michael Hughes, and his mother, would use cocaine and crack cocaine together.  The grand jury heard testimony from one witness who testified that Michael Hughes provided them with cocaine while they were watching the movie Scarface in the basement of the Hughes home.

Corbett said the grand jury also found that Hughes was involved in arson at the residence of Peter Kolacz of Kingston, one of the defendants in this investigation.  The grand jury found that Hughes was allegedly upset with Kolacz because Hughes believed that Kolacz was taking away some of Hughes' marijuana customers and may have stolen some items from Hughes' home.

The grand jury found that Hughes offered to pay Rushton with marijuana to set fire to  Kolacz's house.  On Dec. 22, 2003, after smoking crack cocaine and marijuana Hughes and Rushton stopped at a gas station where they filled up an empty 22-ounce plastic bottle with gasoline and put a rag in the bottle.  Hughes drove to Kolacz's home and Ruston broke a basement window of Kolacz's house and threw the bottle in the window creating a fire which caused extensive damage to Kolacz's home.

Corbett said the investigation is continuing into the Bronx, New York, source of the marijuana.  He noted that in addition to the 13 defendants charged today, two juveniles have also been charged in this investigation.

Corbett thanked Luzerne County District Attorney Dave Lupas' office and the Luzerne County Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation. 

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before Kingston Magisterial District Judge Paul Roberts and will be prosecuted in Luzerne County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert O'Hara of the Attorney General's Drug Strike Force Section. 
 
Below is a list of the defendants and the charges against them:

- Michael Hughes, 20, 79 N. Welles Ave., Kingston, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, delivery of cocaine, possession with intent to deliver cocaine, arson endangering property and criminal use of a communication facility.

- Kathryn Hughes, 49, 117 Second Ave., Kingston, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal use of a communication facility. 

- Alhaji Samba, 38, 57, S. Fulton St., Wilkes-Barre, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Christopher Fell, 20, 340 Quay Ave., Scranton, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Michael Brostoski, Jr., 20, 65 Fort St., Forty-Fort, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Ryan Rushton, 18, 39 S. Gates Ave., Kingston, is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Jason Jones, 20, 111 N. Welles Ave., Kingston, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Bethany Storm, 21, 7 Barre St., Courtdale, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Matthew Riggs, 20, 137 Green St., Edwardsville, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Brian Doris, 22, 48 Church St., Edwardsville, is charged with conspiracy to deliver cocaine, possession with intent to deliver cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility.

- Jessica Miraglia, 19, 100 S. Thomas Ave., Edwardsville, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Marisa Ginanni, 19, 501 N. Gates Ave., Kingston, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

- Peter Kolacz, 20, 44 Poplar St., Kingston, is charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal use of a communication facility.

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

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Editors Note: For a copy of court documents and photos of the defendants, contact the Attorney General's Press Office at 717-787-5211.  For more information on the case go to the Attorney General's web site at www.attorneygeneral.gov.