3 indicted linked to gang
The latest grand jury indictment in a tri-county drug case ties three accused dealers who allegedly operated in Shamokin, Mount Carmel and beyond to a criminal street gang.
A grand jury says Renard Durant, 26, of Bloomsburg, Shelton Cochrane II, 35, of Mount Carmel, and Gilberto Lanzot Jr., 31, of Mount Carmel and Wilkes-Barre, each held leadership positions within the Pennsylvania branch of the Almighty Renegade Gangsta Bloods.
The trio and a co-conspirator, Jeffrey Tripp, 27, of Kulpmont, are all accused of dealing heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana. Cash and guns were traded to buy the drugs in the Hazleton area of Luzerne County as well as New York and New Jersey, prosecutors say. They then sold the drugs in Northumberland and Columbia counties beginning around July 2011 through their arrest in June 2012.
Some of the profits were kicked into two kitties, one for the local gang and another for a "national treasury," court records say, and the defendants recruited others as members to further their enterprise.
Drugs, guns, cash and gang literature - writings on oaths, bylaws, alliances and gang hierarchy - were all stored at various locations, including at unidentified homes in Shamokin and Mount Carmel as well as at Tripp's former residence at 943 Chestnut St., Kulpmont, and Durant's at 567 W. Main St., Bloomsburg, according to court records.
Cochrane is accused of buying a brick of heroin in August 2011, while Durant is accused of selling 174 bags of heroin on three occasions in Northumberland and Columbia counties. Other sales of marijuana and cocaine are also alleged, along with the trade of a .22 caliber revolver with an obliterated serial number.
The gang affiliations were alleged in the second superseding indictment issued in the case. The original indictment naming only Durant and Tripp came in June. Cochrane and Lanzot were identified in the first superseding indictment in December.
Tripp initially pleaded not guilty to federal charges. He has since changed his plea to guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors of U.S. Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Durant, Cochrane and Lanzot have all pleaded not guilty. A trial that had been continued more than once is presently scheduled to begin May 8.
Mount Carmel Police Chief Todd Owens, a member of the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force, is a deputized task force member for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He signed the original complaints against Durant and Tripp.
Owens wouldn't talk Friday about the case since it's a pending matter, but he spoke in general about gang activity in the local drug trade.
"Big city" gang activity is ongoing in this and other rural areas throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania, he said. But to put it in context, he said, their presence varies. "We don't want to create a sense of hysteria where there doesn't have to be any," he said.
Gangs sell drugs locally because the demand exists and the markup is significant. Owens said a small bag of heroin that sells for $5 or $6 in New York City can fetch between $25 and $30 locally. "It pretty much boils down to money," he said.
Local police work with state troopers, district attorneys and the FBI to monitor any suspected gang activity, seeking to dismantle the organizations before they can gain a "real strong foothold" locally.