ELLSWORTH – A suspect in a routine arrest more than a year ago began cooperating with police, prompting another investigation that would break up what authorities are calling a large-scale illegal prescription drug ring based in Washington County, and more arrests are pending in the case.
State police did not identify the informant Friday when nine people arrested in the ongoing investigation appeared before District Judge Curtis Thompson, whose court sometimes took on a party atmosphere with the suspects laughing and talking loudly, and one insisting the court send out for pizza.
The alleged ringleader, Leann Sachek, 45, of Washington, who is accused by a statewide grand jury of using her laptop computer to create phony prescriptions to obtain thousands of such drugs as Oxycondone, pleaded unsuccessfully with Thompson to lower her bond to get out of the Washington County jail and tend to her ill father.
“You’re poisoning our community,” said Thompson, who returned her to jail on $275,000 bond. “That’s reasonable. You’re lucky it’s not higher.”
Sachek waived to county court her string of charges, which include forgery, identity theft and obtaining drugs through misrepresentation, as did her daughter, Nicole Sachek, 25, of Washington, who is free on $25,000 bond and facing similar charges in the case.
The Sacheks were not the only mother and child in court facing charges in the drug case.
Pamela Cessna, 53, and her son, Nicholas, 21, both of North Strabane Township and facing trial in Washington County Court in separate burglary cases, saw their hearings continued Friday because they appeared in court without attorneys to defend them on the new accusations they participated in the drug ring.
Meanwhile, the Cessnas face new charges in connection with another burglary.
While Pamela Cessna was in court Friday, Thompson arraigned her on charges of theft, receiving stolen property, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, court records show. State police said they were preparing a similar case against the woman’s son.
They are accused of breaking into a Somerset Township residence Nov. 15 and stealing jewelry, items Pamela Cessna’s husband eventually turned in to police and identified as belonging to the victim. Police said they suspect the pair were involved in as many as five other burglaries and are asking anyone in the area who had jewelry stolen to call them at 724-223-5200.
As part of the ongoing drug investigation, state police, acting on a second statewide grand jury presentment, also arrested Edward G. Zupancic, 49, of Scenery Hill, on allegations he used 79 of his dying friend’s prescriptions to obtain Oxycodone and Opana for his own use, beginning in February 2010. He also waived his charges and was returned to Washington County Jail on $275,000 bond, despite his pleas to be released for medical reasons.
Investigators said all 13 arrests warrants were signed in the case May 20, but they said Zupancic and his alleged co-conspirator, Mark J. Uniatowski, 48, of McDonald, did not participate in the ring. The only thing that ties them to the other arrests, investigators said, was the ongoing investigation into the illegal use of narcotics in the region.
Also Friday, Daniel Madden, 23, of Clairton, turned himself in to face drug charges as a suspected member of the ring, and he was released after posting a percentage of his $25,000 bond. Two others who are in custody on unrelated charges, Jordan Bular, 25, of Bentleyville, and Edward Deems, 33, of Daisytown, have yet to be arraigned.
Ryan Ritenour, 28, of Ellsworth, also waived his charges to court in the drug ring case Friday, and police said they plan to file more drug fraud charges against him.
“There is more stuff coming out now,” said state police Trooper Marty Gonglik, the lead investigator in the case.
Christin Segedi, 28, and Jerome McKee, 54, both of Ellsworth, also waived their charges to court in that case.
Thompson released Segedi to a drug rehabilitation center on $25,000 unsecured bond and returned McKee to jail on $25,000 bond.
“Don’t let me down,” Thompson said to Segedi. “I’m not bashful. I will put you right back in jail.