New Castle News

TOP STORIES

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.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
TOP STORIES
  • backpackproject.jpg Councilman picks up tab to help lunch program

    Participants of a local summer feeding program are eating this week courtesy of New Castle City Councilman Tim Fulkerson. On Friday morning, the truck dispatched from New Castle to pick up about 3,500 pounds of items from the Pittsburgh Food Bank broke down as it arrived at its destination.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CRESTVIEW.jpg Outreach: Churches plan to host picnic for residents of Crestview Gardens

    Volunteers from several area churches are banding together in hopes of bringing peace to a troubled neighborhood.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Council OKs funds to remove dead trees

    New Castle City Council has approved spending funds from its contingency account to remove some trees at Darlington Park. Marshall Tree Experts of Ellwood City has given an estimate of $12,000 to remove the large elm trees from the Mahoningtown park.

     
     

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 12.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Night light

    The balloons may have been on the ground but spirits were soaring.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • lamancusa.jpg Tanner, district attorney: No comment

    The Lawrence County District Attorney is keeping mum about a probe into finances in Shenango Township. “We don’t talk about ongoing investigations,” Lamancusa said Friday.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Shenango1.jpg Shenango Township: Supervisors fire Tanner, release DeLorenzo

    The Shenango supervisors fired township secretary/treasurer Brian Tanner and terminated auditor and consultant Deno DeLorenzo last night.

    July 18, 2014 3 Photos 4 Stories

House Ads
Poll

Summer is a perfect time for a good read. Where's your favorite place to spend off time with your nose in a book?

Relaxing on the couch
On a bench in the park
By the pool
At the closest beach
I don't have time to read
     View Results