SHAMOKIN - More than 60 law enforcement officers swarmed the streets in local municipalities Monday to round up numerous suspects charged with various narcotics offenses.

The bust was the result of an eight-month joint investigation focused on the import and distribution of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs.

A total of 31 people were charged in the bust, and 25 of them were arraigned Monday. The following is a list of defendants charged in the investigation:

- Ryan Varano, 22, of 114 S. Fifth St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility.

- Glen Grow, 52, of 33 S. First St., Shamokin, five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, four counts of delivery of heroin, four counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin, two counts of delivery of drug paraphernalia, two counts of possession with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia, one count of delivery of Dilaudid and one count of possession with intent to deliver Dilaudid, $190,000 bail, committed to prison.

- David Janaskie, 20, of 850 W. Walnut St., Coal Township, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, $105,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Veronica Buckley, 29, of 933 Spruce St., Kulpmont, one count of delivery of Dilaudid, possession with intent to deliver Dilaudid, criminal conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility, $10,000 unsecured bail, free.

- William Portzline, 22, of 1035 W. Arch St., Coal Township, delivery of Suboxone, possession with intent to deliver Suboxone, delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $60,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Nicholas Winder, 27, of 1048 W. Arch St., Coal Township, three counts of criminal use of a communication facility, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin, two counts of criminal conspiracy, delivery of Percocet and possession with intent to deliver Percocet, $90,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Christine Barnes, 36, of 1050 1/2 W. Arch St., Coal Township, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin, criminal conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility, $35,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Michael Block, 56, of 318 N. Rock St., Shamokin, four counts of delivery of Dilaudid, four counts of possession with intent to deliver Dilaudid and two counts of criminal conspiracy, $125,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Mariann Zarkowski, 47, of 325 N. Shamokin St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of Dilaudid, possession with intent to deliver Dilaudid and criminal conspiracy, $10,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Michelle Yeager, 42, of 531 N. Market St., Shamokin, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, $115,000 bail, recommitted to county prison.

- Aaron Kelly, 32, of 502 S. Pearl St., Coal Township, two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin, delivery of diazepam and possession with intent to deliver diazepam.

- Russell Henz, 49, of 1652 W. Lynn St., Coal Township, two counts of delivery of morphine, two counts of possession with intent to deliver morphine and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, $20,000 unsecured bail, free.

- Jonathan Lake, 20, of 16 Raspberry Hill, Shamokin, four counts of criminal use of a communication facility, four counts of delivery of heroin, four counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin, two counts of delivery of Percocet, two counts of possession with intent to deliver Percocet, one count of delivery of oxycodone, one count of possession with intent to deliver oxycodone, one count of delivery of Kadian and one count of possession with intent to deliver Kadian.

- Robert Reichwein, 25, of 239 W. Willow St., Shamokin, three counts of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin, delivery of Suboxone, possession with intent to deliver Suboxone, delivery of cocaine and possession with intent to deliver cocaine, $85,000 bail, committed to prison.

- David Acevedo, 43, of 22 S. Owl St., Coal Township, three counts of criminal use of a communication facility, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin, one count of delivery of alprazolam, possession with intent to deliver alprazolam and sale of a non-proprietary drug, $150,000 bail, committed to prison.

- James Bones-Vega, 21, of 6 N. Second St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $35,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Georgina DeWitt, 27, of 123-A N. Franklin St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal use of a communication facility, $15,000 unsecured bail, free.

- Antonia Timmins, 18, of 40 S. Maple St., Mount Carmel, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $35,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Peter Gorney, 24, of 317 E. Water St., Mount Carmel, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility.

- Joseph Thew, 22, of Market Street, Shamokin, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $105,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Timothy Smith, 38, of 141 S. Market St., Shamokin, two counts of delivery of marijuana, two counts of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, one count of delivery of fentanyl and one count of possession with intent to deliver fentanyl.

- Jennifer Wagner, 31, of 614 W. Chestnut St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of Suboxone, possession with intent to deliver Suboxone and criminal use of a communication facility, $10,000 unsecured bail, free.

- Harry Wheary III, 21, of 233 Main St., Ranshaw, one count of delivery of cocaine, possession with intent to deliver cocaine and criminal use of a communication facility, $25,000 bail, recommitted to prison.

- Robert Villari Jr., 22, of 28 Raspberry Hill, Shamokin, two counts of delivery of oxycodone, two counts of possession with intent to deliver oxycodone and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, $20,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Konrad Kehler, 20, of 130 Iris Road, Shamokin, one count of delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal use of a communication facility, $15,000 unsecured bail, free.

- Amanda Berry, 18, of 1502 W. Chestnut St., Coal Township, three counts of criminal use of a communication facility, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin, one count of delivery of oxycodone and one count of possession with intent to deliver oxycodone, $95,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Kristi Henehan, 30, of 22 S. Owl St., Coal Township, one count of delivery of Vicodin, possession with intent to deliver Vicodin and criminal use of a communication facility, $10,000 bail, committed to prison.

- William Clements, 18, address unknown, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $35,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Craig Bradley, 19, of 76 E. Sunbury St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, criminal conspiracy, solicitation of minors to traffic drugs and criminal use of a communication facility.

- Jordon Herrold, 19, of 320 W. Spruce St., Shamokin, two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, $105,000 bail, committed to prison.

- Shawn Latshaw, 25, of 710 E. Dewart St., Shamokin, one count of delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin and criminal use of a communication facility, $100,000 bail, committed to prison.

All the defendants arraigned in the bust were ordered by Gembic to appear for preliminary hearings in his office Tuesday, Oct. 13. Varano, Lake, Gorney, Smith, Bradley and Kelly were charged, but not taken into custody Monday.

Most of the defendants were taken into custody at their residences and brought before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III for arraignment. Gembic committed the majority of the defendants to the county prison when they failed to post bail. Several were released on unsecured bail and a few suspects were already in Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury on unrelated charges.

The majority of the defendants are repeat offenders.

In addition to the 31 people charged Monday, Attorney General Tom Corbett said the same probe led to the arrest of four area drug suppliers in August and September. Agents seized 590 bags of heroin and 17 grams of cocaine in those arrests.

Early start

The drug bust started around 7 a.m. after a briefing at Shamokin Emergency Squad headquarters behind Shamokin Police Station, which served as the command center.

The street-level sweep was spearheaded by Shamokin Patrolman Bryan Primerano, Coal Township Detective Jeff Brennan and Agent Barry Howe of the state Attorney General's Office.

Assisting in the probe were members of the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force including officers from Shamokin, Coal Township, Sunbury, Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township, Kulpmont, Zerbe Township, Ralpho Township and Watsontown police departments, state police, Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini, Corbett, the Northumberland County Sheriff's Department, county adult probation officers and state constables.

Shamokin Area School District provided a school bus and driver to transport numerous defendants to Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury following their arraignments.

The charges were filed by Howe, Primerano, Brennan and other Shamokin and Coal Township officers in connection with incidents that occurred between February and October.

During an 11 a.m. press conference held to announce the drug arrests, Attorney General Tom Corbett said, "Demand and addiction are the problems. Drugs aren't a victimless crime and prescription drug abuse is rising in Pennsylvania and across the country, especially among young people."

Corbett, who recently announced his campaign for governor of Pennsylvania on the Republican ticket, said he will continue to press state and federal legislators for additional funding to combat drug abuse.

The attorney general said it was difficult to determine the street-level value of the drugs involved in Monday's bust, but noted the defendants are street-level dealers. "But we plan to work our way up the chain to get some of the kingpins," Corbett said, while noting additional arrests are pending in the investigation.

Corbett added, "Street-level sweeps take local dealers and users off the street and eventually lead to the arrests of upper-level suppliers and complex drug operations."

'Dent' in crime

Rosini praised all the officers involved in the probe and thanked Corbett for his continued assistance in fighting drug offenses.

"Mr. Corbett has been more helpful in fighting the battle against drugs than any other attorney general I have worked with," Rosini said. "We aren't going to put up with people peddling this poison. If they come to Northumberland County to sell drugs, they will be arrested and go to jail."

Brennan also commended everyone involved in the investigation and especially credited Primerano for his "tireless" efforts in spearheading the probe.

Corbett said undercover officers and confidential informants made more than 60 controlled purchases during the investigation, and were able to determine that the suspects arrested in the raid didn't necessarily work together, but did have common drug suppliers.

Agents said the defendants met their customers on the streets of Shamokin and other Northumberland County municipalities, in parking lots, at businesses and occasionally, at their homes, to purchase and sell drugs.

According to investigators, the individuals arrested for distributing prescription pills were supplying drugs such as Dilaudid, Suboxone, morphine, Vicodin and Percocet, all of which are narcotic pain medications.

"Anywhere there's an influx of drugs and drug-related activity, it can cause serious quality-of0life issues for residents," Corbett said. "This investigation targeted the problem head-on, and we have successfully put a significant dent in the Northumberland County drug trade."

Twenty-four drug dealers were taken off local streets on Monday. The question is whether or not the drugs will disappear with them.

Some groups, including the Maryland-based Criminal Justice Policy (CJP) Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization that focuses on drug policy reform, classify drug sweeps as efforts of a failed national war on drugs.

But local law enforcement, including Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini, said the effort to keep dealers off local streets will continue, and that programs such as the county's drug court are aimed at preventing repeat offenders.

In a recent telephone interview, CJP President Eric Sterling noted that Sept. 27 was the 40th anniversary of the launch of Operation Intercept, an anti-drug measure under the Nixon administration.

Under Operation Intercept, U.S. officials extensively searched vehicles entering the United States from Mexico.

Sterling said the program reduced the supply of marijuana from Mexico to a "trickle," but then added to the cultivation industry of marijuana in America.

"These kind of street raids are simply the other end of the pipeline: dramatic and equally ineffective," Sterling said.

Rosini countered that drug sweeps are part of a larger effort to stem the flow of drugs. He continues to press for community focus on prevention.

"It is time for the community at large to rise up and take a stand that will stop the demand for drugs in our area, because there will always be people coming in to sell drugs if there are people who want to buy them," he said Monday in discussing the value of drug sweeps.

"There should be one class for every child, every year, that teaches about drug use and the horrible effect that drugs have on people," he continued. "Every church should work together to establish groups that will help counsel drug abusers."

He noted the work of Project FAITH in Sunbury, started by the mothers of drug abusers.

Police will press on

Interestingly, one of Monday's defendants, Michael Block, is a drug court graduate.

"I think that drug court is a start, but it's not 100 percent." Rosini said. Despite Block's recidivism, "There is a high success rate, but it is only one piece of the puzzle," the DA said.

Regardless of the perspective of CJP and other organizations, Rosini said the effort will continue to take dealers off of the street.

"Each officer puts in a tremendous amount of man hours into each investigation, and its just impossible to keep up," he said. "But we will keep on doing it and arresting them and putting them in jail until they are hanging off the rafters."

(Information from an interview by Times-Shamrock Writer Dustin Pangonis was used in this article.)