Elk County residents charged in multi-county drug bust

ST. MARYS - A year-long investigation led by Troop C of the Pennsylvania State Police in conjunction with the United States Postal Service involving the sale and distribution of illegal narcotics in Elk, Jefferson, and Clearfield counties resulted in the June 20 arrests of seven Elk County residents and one individual with local ties. For their use of mobile telecommunication devices in arranging the purchase and sale of narcotics, the eight defendants are each charged with various counts of criminal use of communication facility, a third-degree felony, and criminal conspiracy, an ungraded felony. The criminal complaints against the defendants were filed June 15, 2012 with District Judge Mark Jacob. The names of those charged are as follows: Raechel Dawn Maletto, 27, of 606 Maurus St., St. Marys; Aaron Christopher Johnson, 25, of 160 Kersey Lane, Kersey; Danielle Renee Himes, 31, of 230 Kylers Rd., Kersey; Joshua Clemons Longhi, 25, of 131 Skyline Dr., Kersey; Deborah Jean Graham, 47, of 130 Chicken Hill Rd., Kersey; David Robert Pontzer, 25, of 107 Dietz Rd., Kersey; Chester Mark Shugerts, 34, of 391 Legrand Rd., Woodland; and Heather Brianne Gregori, 24, of 1834 Teal Trace Dr., Pittsburgh. According to the affidavit of probable cause, the investigation began in March 2011 when the Pa. State Police and U.S. Postal Inspection Service initiated a joint investigation of drug trafficking in Elk, Jefferson, and Clearfield counties. The affidavit states that the investigators identified numerous suspects conspiring to sell and purchase narcotics, with the drug transactions typically involving the sale of methamphetamine, marijuana, and oxycodone pills. Through their investigation, authorities determined that the drug trafficking operation was based out of Jefferson County. The investigation also yielded the mobile phone numbers belonging to suspects and used in organizing drug transactions. In addition to those Elk County/area residents named, several arrests have been made over the course of the investigation of individuals throughout the Troop C area, which includes the counties of McKean, Forest, Elk, Clarion, Jefferson, and Clearfield. Preliminary hearings for the area defendants are to be held on July 17 at 1 p.m. at District Judge Mark Jacob's office. Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, June 26, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.