Multi-State Drug Smuggling Prison Ring Dismantled
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania
PITTSBURGH, PA – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 27 defendants, many of whom are serving federal prison sentences or were recently released from federal prison sentences, with committing drug trafficking and money laundering crimes and with engaging in interstate travel and transmissions in aid of racketeering, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
The 8-count Indictment, returned on January 18, 2019, charges 25 defendants with conspiring from January 2017 to January 2019 to distribute large volumes of drugs, including 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 1 kilogram or more of heroin, fentanyl and a fentanyl analog, oxycodone, synthetic cannabinoids, and buprenorphine, commonly known as SubOxone.
The 25 defendants charged in Count 1 are Noah Landfried (age 34 of Moon Township), Mario Allen (age 40 at USP-Lee in Virginia), Larry Benavides (age 43 at the Clinton County Jail in Pennsylvania), Dashawn Burley (age 20 of Monroeville), Michel Cercone (age 45 of Sewickley), Ahmad Fletcher (age 26 at FCI-Gilmer in West Virginia), Michael S. Frawley (age 47 of Pittsburgh), Christopher Gahagan (age 35 of Ambridge), Richard Georgelos (age 34 of Santa Cruz, Arizona), Nicholas Giammichele (age 34 at FCI-Danbury in Connecticut), Robert Korbe (age 49 at FCI-Loretto in Pennsylvania), Ross Landfried (age 37 at USP-Lee in Virginia), Sterling Marshall (age 24 at USP-Lee in Virginia), Darren Martin (age 30 of Aliquippa), Harold Novick (age 38 of Ambridge), Paul Nuara (age 51 of Erie), Omari Patton (age 39 at FCI-Fort Dix in New Jersey), James Perry (age 52 of Ambridge), John Ramsey (age 47 at FCI-Ray Brook in New York), Donnell Steward (age 49 at FCI-Otisville in New York), Quoc Boa Trinh (age 39 at FCI-Otisville in New York), Terrell Williams (age 39 of Pitcairn), Richard Wood (age 39 of Pittsburgh), Shayla Yates (age 38 of Dinwiddie, Virginia), and Krystian Zarate (age 27 of Santa Cruz, Arizona).
"Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated team of investigators and prosecutors, we have dismantled one of the largest prison drug smuggling rings in the country," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "This drug trafficking organization, which consists largely of repeat offenders, peddled dangerous drugs in prisons and in our communities. If this type of conduct doesn’t demonstrate the need for tougher drug sentences, I don’t know what does."
As part of the drug trafficking scheme, narcotics were smuggled into federal prisons facilities by saturating paper (including into printed court opinions and greeting cards) and mailing the paper to inmates. The prisoners paid for the drugs through an elaborate money laundering scheme involving the inmates’ financial accounts at the prison. The indictment seeks forfeiture of those accounts, among other things. The Indictment charges 9 defendants with conspiring to launder drug trafficking proceeds from January 2017 to January 2019. The nine defendants charged in Count 2 are Noah Landfried, Allen, Benavides, Cercone, Fletcher, Ross Landfried, Marshall, Perry, and Yates.
The Indictment charges Angelo Williams (age 33 of FCI-Cumberland in Maryland) and Priyanka Kumar (age 32 of Potomac, Maryland) in Count 3 with engaging in interstate travel and transmissions in aid of racketeering from January 2017 to January 2019.
Counts 4, 6, and 7 of the Indictment charge Gahagan with distributing cocaine in September 2017, January 2018, and April 2018. Count 5 charges Benavides with possessing a fentanyl analog and synthetic cannabinoids with intent to distribute in November 2017. Count 8 charges Noah Landfried with distributing heroin in June 2018.
The Indictment seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes as well as property that was acquired with the proceeds or was used to commit the crimes.
The law provides for minimum and maximum sentences for the counts in the Indictment ranging from at least 10 years to up to life in prison for Count 1, up to 20 years for Count 2, up to 5 years for Count 3, and up to 30 years for each of Counts 4 through 8. Fines ranging from $250,000 to up to $20,000,000 may also be imposed. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentences imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal histories, if any, of the defendants.
Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General led the multi-agency investigation that also included the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations, the Pittsburgh Police Department, the United States Marshals Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Munhall Police Department, the Robinson Township Police Department, the McKees Rocks Police Department, the Stowe Township Police Department, the Etna Police Department, and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
The investigation was funded by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF). The OCDETF program supplies critical federal funding and coordination that allows federal and state agencies to work together to successfully identify, investigate, and prosecute major interstate and international drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Updated February 4, 2019