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: Chris Zumpetta-Parr, Public Affairs Specialist
December 14, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Drug Task Force: Restructured & Reinvigorated
Member Agencies Added, Control Board Expanded
BRIDGEPORT, WEST VIRGINIA — Local, state and federal law enforcement leaders announced with great enthusiasm a new and improved drug task force that will serve all of Harrison County.
Representatives from the Clarksburg Police Department, the Bridgeport Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the United States Attorney’s Office made the announcement today at the Bridgeport City Council Chambers.
United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld, II, explained that the task force will include three full-time officers from Clarksburg, two full-time officers from Bridgeport, one full-time agent from the DEA, one full-time trooper from the West Virginia State Police, as well as agents from the ATF and the USMS on a case-by-case basis.
Other law enforcement agencies have expressed a desire in recent days to join the task force and those requests will be considered by the control board at its first meeting in
2013. Current member agencies are also exploring the possibility of increasing their commitment to the unit. Thus, the number of full-time agents will begin at seven but could increase by early next year. The group will also be renamed, and that decision will be announced as soon as it is made.
The revamped control board - or board of directors - will include Ihlenfeld, Chief Marshall Goff of Clarksburg, Chief John Walker of Bridgeport, United States Marshal Gary Gaskins, ATF Resident Agent in Charge Dewayne Haddix, Acting DEA Group Supervisor Mark Simala and Captain Tim Bledsoe, leader of the State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations. This board will meet monthly to discuss task force business, share intelligence, and coordinate investigations and prosecutions.
“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to make this drug task force even stronger through the restructuring that has taken place over the past few days,” said U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld. “This task force has been one of the top performing groups in the Northern District of West Virginia for a long time. Some of the most significant cases prosecuted by my office have been the result of the terrific investigative work of the officers that make up this unit.”
Ihlenfeld mentioned some of the bigger cases that have been brought by the task force in recent years, including the Jeffrey Paglia case of 2012 that led to the closure of Hot Stuff Cool Things and millions of dollars in asset seizures; the “Operation Blue Haze” case from 2011 and 2012 that led to the conviction of 53 individuals on gun and drug violations; the D-Block Crips case from 2009 wherein 28 drug and gun dealers were convicted and the task force coordinator was honored nationally; and the Vets Club case from 2006 and 2007.
Ihlenfeld also explained that in just the past two months twenty-two defendants have been arrested and have pleaded guilty to federal drug felonies as the result of task force investigations.
“The citizens of Harrison County will have a bigger and better task force than before, and they should not be concerned that there will be a lack of coverage in any part of the county,” said Ihlenfeld. “We want to assure everyone that we’ll continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute all of the drug and violent crime that occurs here, no matter the location. This area will continue to be a safe place to live and raise a family.”
Other agency leaders expressed their strong support of the task force.
“We are 100% behind the task force and its endeavors. I think that it has done an exceptional job and it is unfortunate that we are at a crossroads, but in saying that I support Sheriff Marano’s decision and wish him well,” said Chief Goff. “However, at this time I stand behind this task force and will do whatever is necessary to support it.”
“I have worked with the Task Force since its inception, either as a law enforcement officer working the streets or as a supervisor in the department,” said Chief Walker. “We have been extremely fortunate in the past several years to have the officers that we have serving on the task force. I can tell you from personal experience that they have been very productive and effective in combating drugs in the community.”
“The relationship between ATF and the drug task force has never been better,” according to Haddix. “We see them as very competent, cooperative, and hardworking partners in our mission to reduce violent crime.”
“The DEA is committed to working with this task force to combat the ongoing drug problems that we face in Harrison County,” said Simala.
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