ERIE — “Its a great day for Erie, and a great day for Northwest Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott Brady, during a press conference held Thursday at Troop E State Police headquarters in Erie.
The press conference highlighted two years of investigation that lead to the “disruption and dismantling” of two drug rings.
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service partnered with Titusville Police to bring down a meth ring based in Crawford County. This particular ring fed methamphetamine into Crawford, Venango and Warren Counties.
On Wednesday, 42 agents and a helicopter from local, state and federal agencies raided a property in Grand Valley, known as “The Farm.” Agents were able to find and confiscate drugs, guns and an explosive device. Erie Bomb Squad was called out to the scene to neutralize the explosive device.
The Farm is a property that was used by local “meth kingpins” Gale Flick Jr. and Carina Tucker , according to Brady. Police estimate the pair had 8-10 associates living on the property to aid them in the meth trade.
The combined task force raided five properties over two states on Wednesday. Both drug rings, the other being based in Erie, involved new, pure, potent meth coming from Mexican cartels south of the border. Prior to the cartels being involved, most meth in this region was coming from small regional “one pot labs,” according to Brady. Brady said of the new meth being sold in the area, “it’s pure, it’s potent, it’s abundant, and it’s cheap.”
Flick and Tucker reportedly traveled by vehicle to Akron, Ohio to pick up bulk quantities of meth to distribute in to users and distributors at the farm. The pair also had associates vandalize vehicles and fire gunshots at residences as scare tactics for their criminal organization.
According to Jeff Phugh, the lead investigator of the case for Titusville, “The Titusville Police Department noticed during the summer of 2018 a rise in crystal methamphetamine and a rise in firearms.” Titusville Police contacted the ATF to investigate the “scrubbed” firearms they had collected. ATF told Titusville Police that the drugs and gun they had found were connected to a large meth operation that was affecting almost all of Northwest Pennsylvania.
Titusville Police, ATF, DEA, and postal inspectors then decided to collaborate and work together to bring down not just one part, but the entire operation.
Titusville Police Chief Dustin LeGoullon attributed the success of the operation to the communication between agencies. “This is a perfect example of what can happen when law enforcement agencies come together for a common goal,” said LeGoullon. “Drugs were removed from the streets, guns were removed from the streets and our community was made safer, as well as other communities around us.”
Law enforcement, however, are still looking for Manuel Lucero. Lucero was a member of the drug operation, and is currently a fugitive from justice.
Going forward, the State Police Crime Lab will be conducting tests on the explosive device to determine if it has real destruction capabilities. If it does, additional explosive charges will be brought against the defendants.
Locally, Phugh said that while there was not much meth trade in the area that wasn’t connected to Flick and Tucker, “You can rest assured that the Titusville Police Department will continue to work with our federal and state partners to continue to fight against methamphetamine in the area.”
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