New Castle News

DailyRecord

February 27, 2013

Police make drug bust at hotel

NEW CASTLE — Nathaniel McKnight Jr. went to a hotel room intending to buy drugs but left wearing handcuffs, police said.

Lawrence County and New Castle drug task force officers had set up a surveillance to catch the 19-year-old after a confidential informant had arranged to sell him about three ounces of cocaine for $2,400.

According to court documents, the informant had arranged to deliver the cocaine to McKnight at a Shenango Township hotel.

The police rented a room at the hotel Thursday morning and rigged up monitoring equipment to watch the alleged transaction that was to involve five ounces of cocaine.

The informant phoned McKnight around 10:30 a.m. to arrange the sale, police said, and McKnight arrived at the hotel room around 3 p.m. Police said they witnessed the informant giving McKnight three ounces of cocaine in exchange for $2,400. As McKnight left the room with the cocaine, they said, officers immediately seized him.

The officers recovered the three ounces of cocaine, they said, along with a small amount of marijuana McKnight had in his jacket pocket. They also confiscated two cell phones from him and recovered the two additional ounces of cocaine and money the informant was holding.

McKnight told police his ride was waiting for him outside and officers found two women in a brown four-door car. The women were questioned by police, along with a man who had been in the hotel lobby renting a room and believed to be with them, officers said. The three have not been charged.

McKnight, of 113 Friendship St., faces two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and one count each of possession of a controlled substance and possession of a small amount of marijuana.

He was arraigned by District Judge Melissa A. Amodie and lodged in the Lawrence County jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is set for tomorrow.

Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said the charges against McKnight carry a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence for the weight of the cocaine he allegedly purchased, which was in excess of 75 grams. Lamancusa said it has a street value of $15,000.

Participating in the arrest were members of the drug task force, New Castle narcotics officers and district attorney detectives. The Shenango Township police and city’s tactical team assisted, Lamancusa said.

“This was a little different,” Lamancusa said Tuesday of the pre-arranged sting. “We targeted a high-level dealer, who also was a high-level customer.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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