Former Mount Carmel man gets five years for intent to sell heroin
A former Mount Carmel resident was sentenced Tuesday to serve five years in a federal prison for conspiring to sell heroin in Northumberland and Columbia counties.
Shelton Cochrane II, 37, and codefendants Renard Durant, 27, and Gilberto Lanzot Jr., 33, each signed agreements in April pleading guilty to a drug conspiracy charge, confessing to possessing with the intent to sell 100 grams of heroin and 28 grams of crack cocaine.
Cochrane was sentenced in U.S. Middle District Court to serve the mandatory minimum.
In seeking a minimum sentence, Cochrane's attorney wrote in a sentencing memorandum that his client was a cash-strapped father of a 4-year-old girl who had his probation revoked because he didn't have money to pay fines.
He also faced eviction from two apartments in Mount Carmel in 2011 and 2012 and was in arrears with PPL. If he was getting rich through alleged involvement in a major drug organization, the attorney said his client would have had enough money to pay rent. The attorney also cited a study on "first or near first-time offenders," saying the likelihood of such offenders to commit another crime, especially a drug crime, were low.
Durant faces between 97 and 210 months, and Lanzot between 63 and 78 months. Both are expected to appear before a federal judge on Oct. 21 for sentencing.
A fourth codefendant, Jeffrey Tripp, 27, was set to be sentenced on June 11. Court filings on that date have been sealed.
All four were alleged to have committed the crimes as members of a street gang named Almighty Renegade Gangsta Bloods. Both Cochrane and Lanzot denied gang affiliations in separate sentencing memorandums, and Lanzot also denied traveling to New York to buy drugs. Durant did not refute gang implications in a sentencing memorandum. Court documents say all three are related.
Prosecutors say cash and guns were traded to buy drugs in the Hazleton area of Luzerne County as well as New York and New Jersey. Drugs, guns, cash and gang literature - writings on oaths, bylaws, alliances and gang hierarchy - were all stored at various locations, including at homes in Shamokin, Mount Carmel, Kulpmont and Bloomsburg, according to court records.
They allegedly sold the drugs in Northumberland and Columbia counties beginning around July 2011 through their arrest in June 2012.
Durant and Tripp were indicted by a grand jury in June 2012 on charges of distribution of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana in Northumberland and Columbia counties. A superseding indictment following in December 2012 charging Cochrane and Lanzot. A second superseding indictment was returned in March.
All four originally pleaded not guilty.
Tripp was the first to change his plea, doing so in December and cooperating with prosecutors. The others changed their pleas in April, which was approved in May, and avoided trial.