Lawrence County multimillion-dollar family heroin operation busted

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) –  Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said they have cut off a close-knit group of criminals, who cornered the market on the community’s number one drug problem of heroin.

The suspects were named Tuesday after nine adults and one juvenile were arrested in New Castle in connection with an organization law enforcement officials said is responsible for an estimated $3 million to $6 million in heroin trafficking over the past year.

“It’s typically harder to crack a family than it is a group of strangers,” Lamancusa said.

He said many of the suspects arrested on Tuesday are relatives, close friends and significant others. The heroin ring was dubbed the Schmidt Heroin Organization and was led by Michael Schmidt Sr.

Two other adults are part of the organization but were not arrested Tuesday because one already is in custody on other charges and one is in North Carolina. The juvenile is at a medical facility, but Lamancusa said he hopes to try him as an adult.

Law enforcement officials have been working on the investigation for about a year.

“The Schmidt organization is believed to be by far, the single largest heroin distributor in Lawrence County and at its height it was distributing over one kilo of heroin per week,” Lamancusa said.

Confidential informants and officers from nearly every law enforcement agency in Lawrence County said the drugs came from a source in Youngstown.

“Our targets traveled to Youngstown to obtain the narcotics and in some instances the actual dealers from Youngstown, given the volume that this organization was doing, would actually come to New Castle and bring the drugs,” Lamancusa said.

Starting at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, officers searched four houses around the county, kicking in the door and busting out windows at Michael Schmidt Sr.’s home on Clarence Avenue.

“Police cars had blocked the road, flashers were going crazy, police everywhere, SWAT team on the sidewalk,” said his neighbor, Dolores Petrovich.

Officers seized $43,000 in cash, four cars, three ATVs, three guns, $40,000 worth of heroin and $15,000 worth of jewelry, as well as clothes and shoes, among other things, from the four homes that were searched on Tuesday.

Lamancusa said the heroin was buried in the ground.

“I was more than surprised because it is usually very quiet here and I had no idea we had that going on,” Petrovich said.

Lamacusa said these arrests send two messages. One is to reassure the residents of Lawrence County that law enforcement is gaining ground on the community’s drug problem.

“And second, a message of warning for those who continue to deal drugs in our community. It is not a question of if we are coming, but rather when we are coming,” Lamancusa said.

The nine adult suspects arrested Tuesday are being held in the Lawrence County Jail on bond.

According to a court affidavit, those arrested Tuesday and their charges are:

  • Michael Schmidt Sr., 34, 915 Clarence Ave., New Castle. The affidavit states the address is 799 feet from a school. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, three counts of conspiracy with intent to deliver, one count of delivery of a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance) one count of corruption of minors, one count of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs, one count of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs in a drug-free school zone and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
  • A juvenile, who will be 18 on July 17, 245 Fern St., New Castle. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, four counts of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance), one count of conspiracy (possession with intent to deliver) and three counts of criminal use of a communication facility.
  • Christopher Gravatt, 29, 223 N. Scott St., New Castle. The affidavit states he is Schmidt’s nephew. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, five counts of delivery of a controlled substance, five counts of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance), one count of conspiracy (possession with intent to deliver) and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
  • Paul Gravatt, 34, 223 N. Scott St., New Castle. The affidavit states he is Christopher Gravatt’s brother. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, two counts of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance) and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility.
  • Anthony Schmidt, 37, 915 Clarence Ave., New Castle. The affidavit states he is the brother of Michael Schmidt Sr. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, one count of delivery of a controlled substance, and one count of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance).
  • Stacey Heaney, 33, 245 Fern St., New Castle. The affidavit states the address is 817 feet from a school. It also states that she is the ex-wife of Michael Schmidt Sr. She is charged with one count of corrupt organization, three counts of possession with intent to deliver, three counts of criminal conspiracy (possession with intent to deliver), two counts of criminal conspiracy (delivery), and one count each of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs and corruption of minors.
  • Jamal Hill, 29, 245 Fern St., New Castle. The affidavit states he is the significant other of Heaney. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, three counts of criminal conspiracy (possession with intent to deliver), two counts of criminal use of a communication facility and one count each of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs and corruption of minors.
  • Jamie Clobus, 28, 838 Harrison St., New Castle. The affidavit states she is the juvenile suspect’s significant other. She is charged with one count of corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy (delivery), one count of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs and one count of corruption of minors.
  • Mark Ortiz, 29, 245 Fern St., New Castle. He is charged with one count of corrupt organization, one count of criminal conspiracy (delivery), one count of solicitation of a minor to traffic drugs and one count of corruption of minors.
  • Jodi Hoover, 39, 208 N. Ray St., New Castle. The affidavit states the address is 643 feet from a school. She is charged with one count of corrupt organization, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, two counts of conspiracy (delivery of a controlled substance) and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
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