Prosecutors nab 5 in drug, gun exchanges
Crack for guns.
State prosecutors say that was the bargain two Lawrence County drug addicts made with four members of a Buffalo, N.Y., street gang that shipped drugs into Western Pennsylvania in exchange for hard-to-get guns.
The arrests came in New Castle, and state Attorney General Tom Corbett's office said hard-core criminal activity is sprouting in mid-sized Pennsylvania cities across the state.
"Communities are being targeted by urban drug dealers, and it's a war," spokesman Nils Frederiksen said. "We're seeing more weapons and we're seeing more violence."
A group of young men drawn from a gang calling itself the Fruit Belt Posse -- named for the fruit-themed streets in an area of Buffalo, according to police there -- settled into New Castle with an offer for drug users, Corbett's office said.
Frederiksen said the drug users bought the guns legally and turned them over to criminals who could not get them on their own. In return for the so-called "straw purchases," the drug dealers provided crack cocaine and cash. The 18 guns were purchased between September 2004 and February 2005.
State police arrested three people with Buffalo ties, and charged them with drug and gun crimes: Edward "June Bug" Wilkie, 31, already in a West Virginia prison; Chanel "Pomp" Pompey, 22, in a New York prison; and Donnell "D" Johnson, 22, of 5 E. Wallace Ave., New Castle.
Officers also are seeking a 17-year-old boy, identified only by his street name, "Pony."
Two New Castle residents were arrested as the gun buyers: Louis J. Glorioso, 51, of Old Butler Road, and JoEllen Piccirillo, 50.
"People wonder aloud how guns get in the hands of criminals," Frederiksen said. "This is exactly how they get into the hands of criminals."