Deputy sheriff arrested on drug charges

June 4, 2014
Matthew Miller

A Washington County deputy sheriff was arrested by investigators from the state attorney general’s office with assistance by McDonald police Tuesday afternoon after he allegedly sold narcotics to an informant.

Matthew Miller, 29, of 215 Cole School Road, Jefferson Township, Avella, was taken into custody after he reportedly sold Suboxone, a prescription drug, to an informant working with the attorney general’s office near the Bavington exit of Route 22 in Robinson Township.

After the exchange, Miller was taken into custody by an agent with the attorney general’s office and McDonald police.

Miller was arraigned before District Judge Ethan Ward on charges of possession and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal use of a communications facility. He was released from Washington County jail early Wednesday after posting $500,000 bond.

The investigation revealed that Miller allegedly purchased oxycodone from the informant in front of the Washington County Courthouse while he was on duty as a deputy in uniform. Miller was removed from the schedule about three months ago after failing to pass a probationary period when he ame a full-time deputy.

In April, agents from the attorney general’s office were interviewing a person regarding an ongoing investigation when that suspect provided information about his drug customers to whom he reportedly distributed narcotics, including Miller.

The informant told investigators that he or his girlfriend had delivered oxycodone to Miller for at least two years. He claimed that Miller would drive to his Coraopolis home but that on many occasions, the informant would drive to Miller’s home and meet at different roadside parking spots. The informant also told agents that he had also driven to the courthouse.

The informant agreed to work with investigators. He contacted Miller, who said he did not have enough money to purchase oxycodone because his hours had been cut at the sheriff’s office. Miller reportedly told the informant that he was selling Suboxone and asked if he would be interested in purchasing the drug. Miller allegedly told the other man that the price would be $40 per strip. The informant agreed.

The informant met with agents and called Miller last week. Miller reportedly agreed to sell the informant 10 Suboxone strips for $400 on Friday once he got his prescription filled.

The informant told agents that Miller called Tuesday and was willing to meet him at the Bavington exit of Route 22 in Robinson. Miller reportedly had just six Suboxone strips for sale at a cost of $240. An agent drove the informant to the area where Miller was already waiting. The informant leaned into the passenger window of Miller’s truck and made the purchase, investigators said. When the informant returned to the agent’s vehicle, he told the agent that Miller only charged him $140 for the drug since he owed him $100 from a previous drug debt.

Suboxone is used to treat addiction to narcotics, especially heroin.

Anthony Interval, captain of the deputy sheriffs, described it as a “step down” from methadone, another drug used in the treatment of addiction to wean a person from opiates.

Miller was hired in September 2008 as a part-time deputy and he became full time in July 2013, with a salary of $38,000 based on test score. He failed, however, to pass his 90-day probationary period.

“We haven’t had him on the schedule for three months,” said Sheriff Samuel Romano.

Promotions from part time to full time are no longer based on testing, but interviews, Romano said. Miller’s arrest terminated his employment with the county.

“We’ve been working with the AG’s office,” Romano said. “It’s an ongoing investigation we can’t say too much about.”

Romano said he believed that, in the past, Miller worked for a few police departments.

“We are seeing people from all walks of life diverting drugs illegally to make a profit,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s prescription drug monitoring program collects data only on Schedule II narcotics such as OxyContin, Percocet and fentanyl. There is no means to track other, highly-addictive Schedule III, IV and V controlled substances.”

Kane reiterated her support for expanding the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to include Schedule III, IV and V narcotics to better enable health practitioners and law enforcement in preventing the illegal diversion of prescription drugs.

The case will be prosecuted by the Washington County district attorney’s Office. A preliminary hearing is set for June 16 before Senior District Judge Jay Dutton.

Staff writer Barbara S. Miller contributed to this report.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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