New Castle News

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June 25, 2014

Investigators break up multimillion-dollar heroin ring

NEW CASTLE — Narcotics officers claim Michael Schmidt Sr.’s source for buying heroin to sell in New Castle was in Youngstown.

Investigators also allege he involved several family members and friends, including a 17-year-old male, in sales that netted thousands of dollars a week and between $3 million and $6 million during the past year.

Police are charging 12 people in connection with the local heroin distribution ring. Eight of them, including Schmidt, were arrested Tuesday.

Schmidt, 34, who has addresses at 915 Clarence Ave. and 1610 Highland Ave., is the alleged kingpin of the operation, according to a 30-page criminal complaint filed on each suspect.

“This was the entirety of the organization,” Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said Tuesday at a press conference.

“The Schmidt organization is believed to be, by far, the single largest distributor of heroin in Lawrence County. At its height, the organization was averaging sales of one kilo per week.”

One kilo equals 1,000 grams — nearly two and a quarter pounds — and he estimated it has a street value of $100,000.

The investigation began last July and involved members of the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Special Investigative Unit and the New Castle police, with help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and 10 confidential informants. They made controlled drug buys based on information sources had given to the police.

Tuesday’s arrests began at 6 a.m. and involved more than 30 officers from various county and municipal law enforcement agencies.

When the police went to Schmidt’s Clarence Avenue house to arrest him, they found he had a heavy reinforced steel door and his entire house was wired with video cameras feeding into televisions in various rooms, Lamancusa said.

Officers hooked a winch to the door, attached it to a police vehicle and ripped it off its hinges, he said. They arrested Schmidt and served a search warrant on his house.

Police served four search warrants at different houses where the alleged suspects were living. They confiscated a total of $43,000, four cars, three all-terrain vehicles, a motorcycle, three guns — some of which had been stolen — 40 kilos of heroin and $15,000 worth of jewelry, Lamancusa said.

They also seized thousands of dollars worth of shoes, hats and clothing — much of it new and still with tags. Several houses are being considered for forfeiture, Lamancusa added.

According to officials, the investigation showed the Schmidt organization had a hierarchy with a command and control structure.

Lamancusa said those involved were either family members or close friends of the family.

Police noted Schmidt’s home is 799 feet from the former St. Joseph School.

During at least six months last year, the school had New Castle kindergartners there.

Homes of other alleged dealers also are located in school zones.

District Judge Melissa A. Amodie noted during one arraignment that selling within 1,000 feet of a school zone carries a minimum sentence of two years in prison.

In addition to Schmidt, those allegedly under him as leaders and suppliers facing charges are:

•The juvenile, a leader and supplier

•Anthony Schmidt, 37, also of 915 Clarence Ave., Michael Schmidt’s brother, a leader and supplier

•Christopher Gravatt, 29, 223 N. Scott St., a leader and supplier

Police allege they enlisted other people who benefited directly or indirectly and who assisted in trafficking the heroin for the organization.

Those others, also facing charges, are:

•Mark Ortiz, 29, 245 Fern St.

•Jamal Hill, 29, 245 Fern St.

•Stacey Heaney, 33, 245 Fern St.

•William Fuller, 43, 721 E. Main St.

•Paul Gravatt, 34, 223 N. Scott St.

•Jamie Clobus, 28, 838 Harrison St.

•Roy Zook, 34, 230 Crawford Ave.

•Jodi Hoover, 39, 208 N. Ray St.

Police noted the Fern Street house is 817 feet from New Castle’s Croton school and the Ray Street house is 643 feet from the city’s Lockley school.

According to police documents, one informant told officers Schmidt had been selling almost 300 grams of heroin a week, has been distributing drugs for three years and had lived in the Westview Terrace apartment complex.

The informant told investigators of having driven Schmidt to Youngstown on numerous occasions where Schmidt bought up to $50,000 worth of heroin at a time from a man whose nickname is “Face.”

The informant also told police Schmidt sold 600 to 800 grams of heroin a week through intermediaries, and 90 percent of the heroin being sold in the New Castle area was coming from the “Schmidt crew.”

Another informant told police Schmidt would buy between $30,000 and $60,000 worth of heroin at a time from a male who lives on the east side of Youngstown.

The informant said Schmidt’s brother, Anthony, would drive Schmidt to Ohio to purchase it, according to the documents.

The informant also identified Christopher Gravatt as a cousin of Schmidt’s who distributed heroin for him, adding he would use his brother, Paul Gravatt, and Fuller to distribute heroin Christopher Gravatt had obtained from Michael Schmidt.

Another informant said Fuller was selling 30 grams of heroin a week that he got from Christopher Gravatt and that Zook was moving at least 100 grams of heroin every other day.

Informants told police that Heaney is Michael Schmidt’s ex-girlfriend and Clobus is the juvenile’s girlfriend.

The teen accused as part of the organization is being charged by juvenile petition, according to Lamancusa.

He said he intends to try the youth as an adult.

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