Feds bust one of largest cocaine rings in Western Pennsylvania; 39 indicted
A federal grand jury has indicted 39 people in a cross-country cocaine ring that flooded Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley with drugs, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Wednesday.
The cocaine ring was among the largest in the history of Western Pennsylvania, Brady said. It stretched from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and included connections to Mexican cartels.
Two indictments led to the charges against the 39 people, one of whom has been in federal prison since the late 2000s and continued to coordinate and communicate with the ring from prison, Brady said.
The two-year investigation, called Operation Heavy Hand, included the FBI, state police, and police in Pittsburgh, South Strabane, Elizabeth Borough, Penn Hills and Perryopolis.
“By taking down an entire multistate organization at once, the impact on our region is felt immediately,” Brady said.
The ring was run by brothers Jamie Lightfoot Jr., 25, and Deaubre Lightfoot, 27, according to Brady, and included interstate drug trafficker Don Juan Mendoza, formerly of Lawrenceville, Ga.
Brady said the drugs, which included heroin and marijuana in addition to the cocaine, were brought into the area in either a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van or a large RV.
The brothers’ father, Jamie Lightfoot Sr., participated in the ring from federal prison, Brady said. He’d been indicted on federal drug charges years earlier.
“(He) was communicating with his sons and the organization and was able to, if not control, coordinate and discuss with members of the organization,” Brady said.
Officers stopped the RV last November where they found Pedro Blanco, Brian Powell and Troy Rowe trafficking more than 50 kilograms of cocaine from Los Angeles to Jamie Lightfoot’s Verona home, according to the indictment.
Police also seized a kilogram of heroin, 85 pounds of marijuana, an AK-47 rifle and a handgun, Brady said.
Later searches of the homes and vehicles of others involved in the ring turned up more drugs, 11 firearms and more than $1 million in cash. All told, the amount of cocaine seized had a street value of $2 million.
“Although fighting the opioid epidemic remains this office’s top priority, this case is clear evidence of a disturbing trend: Cocaine is making a comeback in this region,” Brady said.
He noted that many drug users are now overdosing on deadly combinations of cocaine and fentanyl. Arrests made Wednesday morning netted 37 of the 39 individuals named in the two indictments. Todd Moses of Decatur, Ga., and originally from Donora, remains on the run.
A 13-count indictment, which included charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, firearms violation and other crimes, named the following 28 people:
• Don Juan Mendoza, 38, of Lawrenceville, Ga.
• Edward Alford II, 30, of Donora
• Devon Bell, 25, of Brownsville
• Pedro Blanco, 40, of Miami
• Douglas Cochran, 39, of Washington
• Anthony Crews, 44, of Monessen
• John Duchi, Jr., 29, of Donora
• Sean Dungee II, 32, of Donora
• Brett Fincik, 43, of Belle Vernon
• Kevin Ford, 32, of Clairton
• Monty Grinage, 39, of Pittsburgh
• Kaylin Homa-Lightfoot, 24, of Verona
• Chace Johnson, 19, of California
• Malik Lawson, 22, of Donora
• Deaubre Lightfoot, 27, of Monessen
• Jamie Lightfoot, Jr., 25, of Verona
• Todd Moses, 33, of Decatur, Ga.
• Thomas Ohler, 36, of Greensburg
• Eric Pinno, 53, of Pittsburgh
• Brian Powell, 39, Jacksonville, Fla.
• Eugene Reddick, 35, of Clairton
• Troy Rowe, 28, of Columbia, S.C.
• Richard Russ, 57, of Sarasota, Fla.
• William Shaw, Jr., 33, of Brownsville
• Herbert Sheppard, 44, of Monessen
• Roddell Smalls, 44, of Pittsburgh
• Quentin Vaden, 35, of Washington
• Jamie Lightfoot, Sr., 46, currently incarcerated at FCI Loretto.
A separate but related indictment for charges of conspiracy to traffic drugs named 11 people:
• Brandon Thomas, 38, formerly of Donora
• Tyler Benefield, 33, of Vanderbilt
• Regina Davis, 48, of Donora
• Adam Farabaugh, 28, of Canonsburg
• Josh Gillingham, 35, of Fayette City
• Renee Kinder, 45, of Donora
• Robert Margoni, 28, of New Eagle
• Tyler Mucci, 31, of Monongahela
• Jeff Newstrom, 30, of Masontown
• Ricky Pietroboni, 40, of Monongahela
• Michael Tirpak, 35, of Elizabeth.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.