Venango County Resident was a Middleman in a Large-Scale Drug Conspiracy Investigated by the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force
PITTSBURGH, PA- A resident of Franklin, PA, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to narcotics trafficking in connection with a large-scale investigation conducted by the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Brian Salaj, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl before United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV. Mr. Salaj is one of 37 defendants charged in the Indictment.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that in 2017, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force initiated an investigation primarily targeting the Darccide/Smash 44, or DS44, neighborhood gang, and its drug-trafficking activity, in and around the South Side area of Pittsburgh. As part of this large-scale narcotics and firearms investigation, in February of 2019, the United States received authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through June of 2019.
Intercepted communications demonstrated that Mr. Salaj conspired with others to distribute controlled substances, including heroin and fentanyl. Specifically, Mr. Salaj served as a middleman who purchased distribution-level quantities of narcotics from co-conspirators and then redistributed the narcotics to other customers. Mr. Salaj was responsible for the distribution of 15 grams of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
Judge Stickman scheduled sentencing for September 2, 2020. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $1,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Mr. Salaj remains on bond pending the sentencing hearing.
Assistant United States Attorney Christy C. Wiegand is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Allegheny County Adult Probation, Allegheny County Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Narcotics, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and the Wilkinsburg Police Department. Other assisting agencies include the Green Tree Police Department, New York City Police Department, Mount Oliver Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Yonkers Police Department, United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
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.