39 Charged in Alleged Interstate Cocaine-Trafficking Network

In Pittsburgh today, federal prosecutors announced they were charging 39 people after taking apart an interstate drug trafficking ring. The ring was allegedly responsible for bringing hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the Pittsburgh area.

Two separate but related indictments were returned yesterday by a grand jury. The investigation had lasted almost two years and was conducted by various agencies. Charges included money laundering, firearms crimes, drug trafficking, and financial structuring.

During a news conference at the U.S. courthouse in Pittsburgh, Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said that this was one of the largest cocaine organizations in Western Pennsylvania’s history. It spread clear across the country, from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and Atlanta, and had sources connected to Mexican cartels.

The cocaine was distributed throughout Fayette, Washington, Allegheny, and Westmoreland Counties.

Many of the investigation’s details are not public. Brady, when asked how authorities believe all the people charged were from the same network, stated that the investigation used many investigative methods, including wiretaps and traditional methods. He said that all the people charged came to the authorities’ attention via the investigation.

Many of those charged were from Washington and parts of the Mon Valley. Almost all have been arrested, though authorities are still searching for one man: Todd Moses, age 33, formerly of Donora and now of Atlanta.

Two brothers—Deaubre Lightfoot, age 27, of Monessen and Jamie Lightfoot Jr., age 25, of Verona—are identified as leaders of the operation. Their father, Jamie Lightfoot Sr., age 46, has been charged with helping in the ring from federal prison in Loretto. He is serving time there on previous drug charges. The supplier for the operation was Don Juan Mendoza, age 38, of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

One of the women charged was a teacher at Ringgold Elementary School. The U.S. Attorney asked for a $25,000 unsecured bond for her and twelve other defendants at a preliminary hearing. The district denied her further access to school property.

The Lightfoot brothers were in custody prior to the indictments, having been arrested after their homes were searched in late 2017. Allegedly, 52 kilograms of cocaine, a handgun, 85 pounds of marijuana, and an AK-47 were seized from Jamie’s home, along with an RV. Deaubre’s home and the homes of the others were searched the following month.

Others indicted were:

  • Quentin Vaden, Washington, 35
  • Malik Lawson, Donora, 22
  • Douglas Cochran, Washington, 39
  • John Duchi, Jr., Donora, 29
  • Chace Johnson, California, 19
  • Brett Finick, former of Belle Vernon, 43
  • William Shaw, Jr., Brownsville, 33
  • Edward Alford II, Donora, 30
  • Devon Bell, Brownsville, 25
  • Anthony Crews, Monessen, 44
  • Herbert Sheppard, Monessen, 44
  • Michael Tirpak, Elizabeth, 35
  • Adam Farabaugh, Canonsburg, 28
  • Regina Davis, Donora, 48
  • Robert Margoni, New Eagle, 28
  • Brandon Thomas, Donora, 38
  • Renee Kinder, Donora, 45
  • Tyler Mucci, Monongahela, 31
  • Ricky Pietroboni, Monongahela, 40

Eleven firearms, including an AK-47 and a handgun, and more than $1 million in cash were seized, in addition to the large quantities of heroin and cocaine and 85 pounds of marijuana. Some of the items seized were done so in previous searches of the Lightfoot brothers’ homes and those of others.

The Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI, and local police departments, including Elizabeth and South Strabane, carried out the investigation. It was funded by a federal task force.

Brady noted that cocaine has made a “disturbing trend” of coming back to the region, and pointed out that many people are overdosing on a combination of fentanyl and cocaine.

These folks are facing some very serious charges. This is one of the biggest, if not The Biggest, drug busts that I can remember. The government is cracking down, folks. It’s time to rethink your life if you are involved in the drug trade. The federal authorities are not people you should be blowing off. I guess all the criminal defense attorneys in the area will be reading up on case law this weekend!

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