OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
William J. Ihlenfeld, II
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
1125 Chapline Street, Federal Building, Suite 3000 ● Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 234-0100 ● Contact: Fawn E. Thomas, Public Affairs Specialist
April 7, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Work of Revamped Drug Task Force
Leads to Federal Indictments
WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA — Three individuals were arrested this morning (April 7, 2011) on arrest warrants stemming from charges contained in Indictments returned this week by a Federal Grand Jury sitting in Wheeling, West Virginia. Law enforcement officials are seeking the arrests of three additional individuals, and one is in custody on unrelated charges. The Indictments are a culmination of a six-month investigation by the recently revamped Hancock/Brooke/Weirton Drug & Violent Crime Task Force and the West Virginia State Police - Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced that JOSEPH BRANDON SATATHITE, age 26, of Follansbee, West Virginia; DAVID MCGOWAN, age 45, of Follansbee; and MARK ANTHONY FRITZ, age 26, of Wellsburg, were arrested on charges contained in an Indictment in connection with heroin activity in the Follansbee area. Law enforcement officers are seeking the arrest of JAMES LESTER, also known as “G,” age 23, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and TANESHIA CEARA CLARK, age 19, of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, who were also named in the Indictment.
In an unrelated case, JESUS ESPITIA ABOYTE, also known as “JESSY,” age 38, of East Liverpool, Ohio, and PABLO ESQUIVEL, also known as “PABLO,” age 29, were named in an Indictment involving cocaine activity in the Newell area. ABOYTE is currently in custody on unrelated charges, and law enforcement officers are seeking the arrest of ESQUIVEL.
The Hancock/Brooke/Weirton Drug & Violent Crime Task Force has been in operation since 1992 but recently was reorganized and has redoubled its efforts to address the drug problems that exist in West Virginia’s two northernmost counties. A senior agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration has assumed the role of Task Force Coordinator, and additional manpower has been added to the unit by the participating agencies. In addition, informal agreements have been reached with Police Departments in Follansbee and Windsor Heights, and the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department in order to share intelligence about drug trafficking in those areas. Furthermore, agents from the West Virginia State Police - Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police are working collaboratively with the Task Force on many matters.
The Task Force Board presently consists of Chairman Mike White, Hancock County Sheriff; Brooke County Prosecutor David B. Cross; Hancock County Prosecutor James Davis; Weirton Police Chief Bruce Marshall; a representative of the Drug Enforcement Administration; and United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld, II.
“The Task Force agents have been working non-stop over the past several months investigating illegal drug activity in Brooke and Hancock Counties, with great results,” said USA Ihlenfeld. “The Indictments announced today are just the beginning of what you will see from this unit. Because of the anticipated increase in cases to prosecute, I am planning to add a Special Assistant United States Attorney to keep up with the workload in Brooke County and Hancock County.”
Prosecuting Attorney David B. Cross stated, “I believe that having the Drug Task Force in full operation in the Hancock-Brooke County areas is vital to successfully combating drug trafficking crime. Our uniformed officers are often unable to expend the time and effort necessary to conducting lengthy and time consuming investigations involving drug trafficking because of the requirements of their day-to-day duties. The Drug Task Force is uniquely constituted in a manner which enables such investigations to be successfully completed.”
Sheriff Mike White stated, “The Task Force is what keeps drugs from gaining a strong foothold in our community, as it allows multiple agencies to combine resources and work together in a way that none of the agencies could do separately.”
West Virginia State Police Sgt. Randy Schambach added, “The officers from the Drug Task Force and the State Police BCI are extremely dedicated and help to make our streets safer. The investigation of illegal drug activity is a priority for the BCI and will continue to be a priority until the problem is brought under control.”
According to James W. Davis, Jr., Prosecuting Attorney of Hancock County, “Like most Prosecuting Attorneys, 80% or more of our cases involve drugs. We appreciate the assistance of the agencies involved in the Task Force who work with us to help rid our community of drugs.”
Specific information in the Indictments include:
JAMES LESTER, JOSEPH BRANDON SATATHITE, DAVID MCGOWAN, MARK ANTHONY FRITZ, and TANESHIA CEARA CLARK were named in a seven-count Indictment.
LESTER, SATATHITE, MCGOWAN, FRITZ, and CLARK were named in Count One of the Indictment charging them with conspiracy to distribute heroin from January 1, 2011, to March 22, 2011, in Follansbee. Counts Two and Four of the Indictment allege that SATATHITE distributed heroin within 1,000 feet of Follansbee Middle School on March 14, 2011, and March 17, 2011. Counts Three and Five of the Indictment allege that SATATHITE used a telephone to facilitate the distribution of heroin on March 17, 2011, and March 18, 2011. Count Six of the Indictment alleges that SATATHITE and MCGOWAN, aided and abetted by each other, distributed heroin within 1,000 feet of Follansbee Middle School on March 18, 2011. Count Seven of the Indictment alleges that SATATHITE, MCGOWAN, and FRITZ, aided and abetted by each other, possessed with intent to distribute heroin on March 18, 2011, in Follansbee.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000 each on Counts One and Seven of the Indictment; a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000,000 each on Counts Two, Four, and Six of the Indictment; and a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 on Counts Three and Five of the Indictment.
JESUS ESPITIA ABOYTE and PABLO ESQUIVEL were named in a five-count Indictment. Count One of the Indictment alleges that ABOYTE distributed cocaine on August 6, 2010, in Newell, West Virginia. Counts Two and Four of the Indictment allege that ABOYTE used a telephone to distribute cocaine on November 8, 2010, and on December 7, 2010, in Newell. Count Three of the Indictment alleges that ABOYTE and ESQUIVEL, aided and abetted by each other, distributed cocaine on November 8, 2010, in Newell. Count Five of the Indictment alleges that ABOYTE distributed cocaine on December 7, 2010, in Newell.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000 each on Counts One, Three, and Five of the Indictment; and a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 each on Counts Two and Four of the Indictment.
The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Randolph J. Bernard. The cases were investigated by the Hancock/Brooke/Weirton Drug & Violent Crime Task Force and the West Virginia State Police - Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
It should be noted that the charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations and not evidence of guilt, and that each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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