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Westmoreland prosecutors contend drug trafficking scheme designed to pay inmate’s legal costs

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Jul. 21—A Westmoreland County prosecutor on Tuesday said a Harrisburg woman drove thousands of dollars of heroin into the region five years ago as part of a scheme by a convicted drug dealer to raise money to finance an appeal of his 30-year prison sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar told jurors Sade Franklin operated as a drug mule for two men convicted in 2013 for their roles in a multi-million dollar drug ring that operated in the county.

“This is a drug conspiracy that is complex and at the same time very simple,” Lazar said. “It involved a man from a state prison cell who wanted to fight a drug case with drug money.”

Police contend Franklin, 34, made at least four trips from Patterson, N.J., to a Hempfield shopping plaza between May and August 2016 to deliver more than $80,000 in heroin to a man prosecutors described as one of the most prolific drug dealers in the county over the last decade.

According to prosecutors, Franklin worked at the behest of boyfriend James S. Moore, 33, formerly of McKeesport, who was convicted of multiple drug offenses charged in 2011 against more than two dozen members of the his distribution network including Chauncy Bray, a man police said was one of his top deputies.

Bray, 31, of Jeannette, who pleaded guilty to drug offenses that resulted from the 2011 arrest, served a 3- t0 6-year prison sentence and testified against Moore at his 2013 trial. Bray was the prosecution’s key witness on Tuesday against Franklin.

He told jurors Moore, operating from a cell at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon County, arranged for Franklin to delivery him heroin to be sold in Westmoreland County. A portion of the profits from drug sales were to finance Moore’s appeal.

Bray said he agreed to the arrangement because he owed Moore for taking the brunt of the blame after the 2011 arrests.

“He agreed to take the fall and have us testify against him,” Bray testified on Tuesday.

Bray said he met Franklin three times in 2016 in the parking lot in front of a Hempfield restaurant and one time at a gas station in North Versailles where she delivered him more than 180 bricks of heroin. Bray testified he also drove to Harrisburg one time to pick up drugs from Franklin.

Bray was arrested in 2017 and is in jail in lieu of a $1 million bond pending trial on 20 drug-related counts. He testified he has no plea bargain deal in place to testify against Franklin or other members of the alleged drug trafficking operation who were charged with him four years ago.

Drug trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with the 2017 investigations are also pending against Moore, 34, and Lindsey Wright, 33, of Clairton.

Bray testified Franklin was one of two people Moore arranged to deliver him drugs to sell to pay for legal expenses. He told jurors the drug-sale scheme netted about $1,500 that was to be used to pay Moore’s attorney fees.

Westmoreland County Detective Ray Dupilka testified Franklin confessed when confronted with the allegations.

Franklin’s defense lawyer told jurors that his client did not profit from the drug deals. Assistant Public Defender Jack Manderino said Franklin befriended Moore after being introduced to him by a relative. They spoke in person when she visited him in prison as well as by telephone and email to arrange the drug deals with Bray, Manderino said.

“James Moore used Sade Franklin. She had misplaced affection for Mr. Moore and she agreed to do something dumb,” Manderino said.

He suggested Franklin should be found not guilty because the prosecution could only rely on Bray’s testimony since drug evidence was not recovered as part of the investigation.

“They are not going to be able to prove it was heroin,” Manderino said.

The trial will continue Wednesday.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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