Agents arrest nine in Centre County drug bust
PATTON TOWNSHIP — Nine people were charged in connection with a half-million dollar heroin and cocaine drug operation that eminated from Centre County and the surrounding area.
State narcotics agents and local police announced the bust at a news conference on March 8. According to the state attorney general's office, those involved brought drugs into Centre, Clinton and Lycoming Counties from the Harrisburg and New York areas.
The investigation was known as “Operation Fire's Out.”
“This is just another example that most of the major drug dealers in Centre County, investigators, have learned over the years, are not home-grown,” said senior deputy attorney general Patrick Leonard. “They are here from New York City, Philadelphia. For example, the main target here was being driven to New York to get the heroin.”
Over the course of the investigation, police seized 13 guns from the Pleasant Gap home of Elijah “Max” Moorer. Of those 13 guns, three were sawed-off shotguns.
“There were 13 firearms recovered from Moorer's residence. That's a big deal because he didn't own any of them,” said Tony Sassano of the attorney general's office. “It should be noted that three of these weapons were sawed-off shotguns. As you know, it's illegal to alter a shotgun like that.”
In addition to Moorer, there were eight others charged in the bust. Several were from State College, including: Robert Albro Jr., 48; Valerie Albro, 44; Timothy Wilson, 43; Colleen Berrigan, 40; and Nicholas Girton, 28.
Police also charged 46-year-old Kendra Spring of Pleasant Gap. Amanda Horner, 29, is in custody in Harrisburg.
Nicole Malloy, 21, of New York City has been charged in the case but is not in police custody.
According to Sassano, the cases will be prosecuted in Centre County.
The investigation began in March of last year. Since that time, police made 16 controlled buys from Wilson and Moorer. Wire taps were also used to help identify additional suspects. In Novemeber, authorities obtained search warrants at the homes of Moorer, Wilson, Albros and Horner. Authorities seized heroin, cocaine, cash and firearms.
Police were not certain if the firearms were going to be used to commit crimes or as a tool to obtain more drugs.
“What I've found is that the weapons in Centre County, the weapons in Blair County, the weapons in central Pennsylvania end up going to the big city where they're harder to find,” Sassano said. “The people in those cities have an appetite for weapons that they don't have. The people here have an appetite for the drugs.”
According to Leonard, the investigation was extremely thorough.
“I just want to underscore what a great job the investigators in identifying these people who were coming here solely to set up shop and distributing heroin to people who otherwise might not be using it. I just want to congratulate them for their work,” he said.
According to authorities, Moorer was receiving large quantities of heroin and cocaine from a source in New York City. Robert Albro, Jr. was acquiring cocaine from an unknown source in Harrisburg. Moorer and Albro were allegedly dealing to Wilson.
“It was an aggressive and thorough investigation,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “The key is it is proactive. If you want to your standard of living drop in a community, it's when drugs are not stopped. In this particular case, you have out-of-town people coming in here and trying to peddle poison — heroin and cocaine.”
The arrests came just a day after a massive drug bust in Huntingdon County in which 29 people were charged in connection with a $14 million heroin ring.
“There are no boundaries,” Parks Miller said. “You saw a drug bust (Thursday) that was huge … we'll continue to do this work and prosecute these cases. They continue to do an immense amount of work that no one knows about. This is when you see it.”
While the investigation is ongoing, Parks Miller said that the arrests were significant.
“When we're talking about the standard of living, we're not just talking about people getting addicted to drugs,” she said. “The offshoot is huge. You see addicts breaking into cars, breaking into homes, committing more retail theft. Addicts commit more crimes and drug addiction has a far-reaching impact.”