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WEST VIRGINIA DRUG DEALER SENTENCED TO LIFE FOR HIS ROLE IN THE MURDER OF A FEDERAL INFORMANT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va—A convicted West Virginia drug dealer was sentenced today to life in prison. George M. Lecco, also known as "Porgy", 60, of Red Jacket, Mingo County, West Virginia, was previously convicted by a federal jury for the murder of Carla Collins, a federal informant, in 2005.

On April 27, 2010, the jury found Lecco guilty of all 12 counts of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; four counts of distribution of cocaine; use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm; murder with a firearm during and in relation to his cocaine conspiracy; witness tampering by killing; witness retaliation by killing; and conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence.

"Today, justice has been served," stated United States Attorney Charles T. Miller. "The actions of this defendant have had a devastating impact on the family of the victim and upon our community. The message is clear -- those who would commit murder to protect their drug business have no place in our community."

According to testimony presented during the trial, Lecco conspired with others to distribute over 500 grams or more of cocaine from 2003 to 2005 out of his pizza parlor, the Pizza Plus. Lecco personally delivered cocaine to customers from a backroom at the Pizza Plus. He also directed his employees to deliver cocaine to customers or to sell the drugs at the drive-through and walk-up windows of the pizza parlor.

An investigation lead by the West Virginia State Police revealed that Lecco was obtaining the cocaine from a supplier in Columbus, Ohio. In mid-February 2005, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the Pizza Plus. Subsequently, Lecco agreed to cooperate with authorities and help provide information about other drug dealers in the area. However, during further investigation, authorities learned that Lecco was continuing to distribute cocaine. Trial testimony revealed that Lecco became suspicious that an associate, Carla Collins, was providing information to authorities about his continued drug distribution, and he solicited an employee at his pizza parlor, Patricia Burton, and her associate, Valerie Friend, to murder Collins in exchange for money.

Friend testified that on April 15, 2005, she and Burton met Collins and another associate, Carmella Blankenship, near the Pizza Plus. Lecco provided Burton with a .38 caliber pistol and quantities of cocaine for Burton to share with Friend, Collins and Blankenship. For the next several hours, the four women drove around the Mingo County area, stopping at various places to use cocaine. At some point in the early hours of April 16, the four women stopped at an abandoned trailer. Friend, Burton and Collins went inside while Blankenship remained outside at the door of the trailer. Once inside, Burton shot Collins with the pistol provided by Lecco, but the bullet only grazed the victims' head. Friend then shot Collins in the chest. After being shot, Collins was struck in the head multiple times with a rock. Testimony at trial also revealed that Lecco assisted Burton, Friend and others in moving the victims' body and burying her in a makeshift grave.

Friend and Burton have both pleaded guilty for their roles in the murder. They each face up to life in prison when sentenced at a later date.

Miller commended the West Virginia State Police stating, "I applaud the efforts and fine work of the West Virginia State Police. They worked tirelessly throughout this case to seek justice for the Collins' family and the community."

The prosecution was handled by United States Attorney Charles T. Miller, Assistant United States Attorney R. Gregory McVey, an

 

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