Philly-Butler drug pipeline dismantled, feds claim

Police arrest half dozen suspects in, around city

June 25, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Federal investigators claim they have dismantled a drug pipeline from Philadelphia to Butler.

Part of the takedown played out Wednesday morning in and around Butler with the arrests of a half-dozen suspects indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, authorities said.

Nine Pennsylvania residents were named in an indictment that was returned June 9 and unsealed Wednesday.

The alleged network is accused of trafficking fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine between January 2017 and June of this year.

The 27-count indictment charges the following suspects who have had Butler and Philadelphia addresses: Qureem Overton, 39; Bobby Askew, 38; Damion Fray, 22; Ricardo Glenn, 28; Jamir Hughes, 16; Nasir Sharpe, 22; and Dwayne Smallwood, 41.

Other suspects are Braden Yartz, 28, who has lived in Lyndora; and Jasmine Cook, 30, who has lived in New Kensington, Westmoreland County.

“(Wednesday), we dismantled a significant Philadelphia-to-Butler drug organization whose pipeline brought fentanyl, heroin and cocaine into Butler communities, including near neighborhood playgrounds and schools,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady in a news release.

Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger praised the joint investigation by the FBI, state police and the county's drug task force.

“This collaborative effort will put a serious dent in drug trafficking in Butler County, making our community a safer place to live and work,” he said. “I want to thank all of the law enforcement officers who were part of this investigation. These officers selflessly placed themselves in harm's way for the overall betterment of Butler County.”

Pennsylvania State Police Maj. Stephen Eberle noted the hard work of troopers, agents, officers and attorneys who came together to “dismantle a large drug trafficking network responsible for distributing a significant quantity of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine throughout the Butler County region.”

The indictment charges the defendants in count 1 with conspiring to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl, 100 grams or more of heroin, 10 grams or more of acetyl fentanyl, a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of cocaine base from 2017 to the first half of this year.

In counts 2, 7-12, 19 and 21-27, the defendants are charged with distributing those controlled substances. Counts 3-6, 13-18 and 20 charge several of the defendants with distributing the controlled substances within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

On Wednesday, authorities said, seven of the defendants were arrested — six in Butler County and one in Washington County. The other two were previously arrested and already jailed.

Of those arrested in Butler County, four were nabbed in Butler, one in Lyndora and another in Butler Township. They were arrested without incident at multiple homes.

All nine defendants are in federal custody.

Federal authorities note that an indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Jim Smith

Jim Smith

Grew up in upstate New York. Earned my Journalism degree in 1983 from the University of Texas at Austin. Worked for two newspapers in Fayette County (Pa.) before starting at the Butler Eagle in 1998.