NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. - Five people are sitting in Columbiana County Jail awaiting extradition to West Virginia on charges that they sold drugs in Hancock County.
Edward J. Bailey Jr., 29, and Nancy Humphreys, 55, both of East Liverpool, and Zachary K. Humphreys, 20, of Salem, were taken into custody Thursday on charges of delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine) within 1,000 feet of a school, conspiracy to deliver cocaine, and transporting a controlled substance into the state.
Mary E. Lombardozzi, 39, and Joseph M. Blake, 22, both of Wellsville, were charged of delivery of a controlled substance (heroin) within 1,000 feet of a school, conspiracy to deliver heroin, delivery of heroin, and child abuse with risk of injury.
A sixth suspect, Abraham Thomas, 32, of Oberlin who is wanted for delivery of a controlled substance (heroin) within 1,000 feet of a school, conspiracy to deliver heroin, delivery of heroin, and child abuse with risk of injury, remains at large.
The five were taken into custody early Thursday by members of the Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug Task Force, the Columbiana County Drug Task Force and the Columbiana County Sheriff's Department. Officers were executing warrants following the suspects' indictment by a Hancock County grand jury earlier this week.
Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher said the investigation leading to the arrests is a continuation of a large drug sweep in April 2013.
"My attitude is that we did a nice job with that last sweep, but we're not done," Fletcher said. "You can't sit on your laurels. As soon as you take a dealer off the streets, somebody's ready to step in and take their place."
This time last year, a federal grand jury in Wheeling returned indictments charging 39 people with drug trafficking in Hancock County. Since then, Hancock County grand juries in September, January and this week have handed down numerous indictments for drug-related offenses.
Many of the recent cases originated in the Newell, W.Va., area and elsewhere in northern Hancock County, Fletcher said, noting that the delivery charges are similar to trafficking charges.
"There's a lot of time that goes into building a case of this nature. We haven't left Newell just because we were successful with last year's arrests. We're just plugging away and trying to keep it as clean as possible," he said.
A source with the drug task force said the school referenced in this week's indictments was Allison Elementary School in Chester, W.Va. "The (controlled drug) buys all took place in Chester," he said.
Fletcher said the indictments highlight the fact that, although authorities are making a dent in the local drug trade, heroin continues to be a problem in Hancock County.
"I'm never satisfied with the amount of arrests or buys or cases that we put together," he said. "I want more because I know there is more. It's out there. Hopefully, people realize we're out there, and we're doing the best we can."
The child abuse charge against Blake and Thomas alleges that they had a child with them "during the transport and delivery of heroin."
The grand jury also indicted two Pittsburgh men who were charged in January in possession of more than two pounds of marijuana and $7,000 in cash.
Keith A. Morrow, 24, and his passenger, Jonathan Engel, 24, were stopped by sheriff's deputies on state Route 2 after being seen driving at a high rate speed between Weirton, W.Va., and New Cumberland.
Morrow faces one count each of possession with intent to deliver a Schedule I controlled substance (marijuana), transporting a controlled substance into the state with intent to deliver and conspiracy. Engel faces a charge of conspiracy.