By Peter Becker
Seven people were nabbed in a joint heroin trafficking investigation, District Attorneys in Pike and Wayne counties announced April 5th. Recent changes to a wiretapping and surveillance law were credited in leading to the arrests.
The five month probe was coordinated jointly by both District Attorney’s Offices and involved both Pa. State Police and borough and regional police departments.
In addition to the arrests, investigators seized 662 bags of heroin, weapons and $5,005 in cash.
Arrested were two persons from Greentown: Brandon Deforge, 21; Christopher Paul Brisendine, 24;
two persons from Dingmans Ferry: Louis Stellato IV, 40 and Joseph Stellato-Riley, 19;
one person from Honesdale: Nicholas Arthur Huebner, 22 and two individuals from Paterson, New Jersey: Walter "Wizzy" Brown, 41 and Luis Rivera, 31.
At a press conference in Milford, Pike District Attorney Raymond Tonkin and Wayne District Attorney Janine Edwards were accompanied by State Police Cpl. Sean Scott, Chief Chad Stewart of the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department, Senator Lisa Baker and State Representative Mike Peifer.
Before them was the cash, samples of the heroin and guns that were confiscated.
Began in November
The investigation of heroin sales began in Delaware Township in November of last year. That month, Louis Stellato was arrested for heroin selling. A search warrant at his home revealed over $6,000, 172 bags of heroin and several firearms. During the probe, detectives learned that Stellato was allegedly being supplied by Walter "Wizzy" Brown.
The joint probe started early in 2013. In February, undercover detectives began purchasing heroin allegedly from Brandon Deforge in Pike County, who was said to be getting his heroin from Brown. Over 1,000 bags of heroin were allegedly purchased from Deforge on four occasions.
The street wholesale rate of this heroin is between $15,000 and $20,000. Deforge is accused of selling heroin in Lackawaxen, Palmyra and Blooming Grove townships.
Detectives monitored the cell phones of Deforge and Brown. This allowed detectives to allegedly witness these suspects in both Honesdale, Wayne County, and Westfall Township, Pike County.
On Tuesday, April 2, detectives arranged to buy the drug allegedly from Deforge near I-84 and Route 739 in Blooming Grove Township. While waiting to complete the purchase, detectives learned that Brown was traveling from Paterson, NJ towards Pike County by tracking the location of his cell phone.
Brown, Deforge and Luis Rivera arrived at the Blooming Grove location. Deforge allegedly sold 250 bags of heroin for $1675 to a confidential informant. These suspects were then taken into custody.
At the same time, detectives allegedly recovered the money used to buy the drug from Deforge in his pants. Detectives obtained a search warrant and recovered another 340 bags of heroin from two cars. Christopher Brisendine allegedly was found to be a co-conspirator.
Concurrently, an investigation was underway concerning Nicholas Huebner of Honesdale for heroin sales. After Huebner was allegedly seen meeting with Brown in Pike County, a court order was obtained to monitor the location of the cell phone used by Huebner.
On April 4 Huebner's location was tracked as he traveled from Paterson, NJ to Honesale. On arrival, Huebner was arrested by Wayne County detectives along with Honesdale Borough Police and State Police.
Police allegedly seized 72 bags of heroin and about $450 from Huebner. He was arrested for a prior sale of heroin in Honesdale and is facing additional charges.
Tonkin and Edwards thanked the legislators for their support in the passage of the Pennsylvania Wiretapping & Electronic Surveillance Control Act, which took effect Dec. 24, 2012.
This revised law permitted law enforcement to track locations of suspects by honing in on their cell phone transmissions and utilizing GPS coordinates.
Tonkin said that prior to the law's revision they would only be able to track an individual cell phone rather than follow a person, who may switch to other phone numbers. A new court order was not necessary every time the suspect switched numbers.
Investigators need to show probable cause to a court, when requesting permission to track communications, Tonkin said. Voice messages can also be tracked but require an order from the state Supreme Court and were not part of the surveillance in this case.
Senator Baker said that law had not been updated since 1998, and Pennsylvania was behind New York, New Jersey and the federal government in their legal surveillance as technology advances.
Both District Attorneys expressed gratitude for the cooperation from various police agencies in working together in the shared battle against heroin trafficking.
Each of the defendants have been lodged in Pike County Correctional Facility on felony charges in lieu of posting bail. Their bail ranged from $35,000 to $200,000.