Milford, Pa.- The District Attorneys of Pike and Wayne County and the Pennsylvania State Police announced the arrests of 7 individuals and an arrest warrant for another related to a drug ring that operated in both Pike and Wayne Counties.
The arrests were the culmination of a five-month long investigation into the sales of heroin and fentanyl by the Pennsylvania State Police Vice unit, and county detectives from both Pike and Wayne County. The Pike County and Wayne County Coroner’s Office were also part of the investigation. The New York State Police and Pike County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in the investigation.
Police arrested Jessica Phillips, 30, of Lackawaxen, Carley Liguori, 27, of Blooming Grove, Diane Phillips, 55, of Lackawaxen, Wendy Fuehrer, 53, of Paupack Township, Wayne County, William Phillips, III, 28, of Lackawaxen, Lauren Phillips, 34, of Lackawaxen, and Charles Warnott, 35, of Honesdale. Remaining at large is Francisco Abreu-Pena, age 44, last known address of the Bronx, NY.
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in support of the charges, Pennsylvania State Police investigators used controlled purchases of fentanyl/heroin, search warrants, electronic surveillance and witness interviews to build the case against the drug ring. The affidavit indicates a belief of the participants that the fentanyl/heroin was coming from Mexico, and that they travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana to pick it up.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal charges, the investigation began in August of last year with a series of purchases of fentanyl and heroin from William Phillips, III, in Lackawaxen and Blooming Grove Townships. During two of the purchases by an informant, Carley Liguori drove William Phillips to the place set to meet for the sale of the fentanyl/heroin. On at least one occasion, Liguori brought along her five-year old son.
According to the affidavit, investigators made a purchase of fentanyl/heroin from Diane Phillips at a residence in Lackawaxen.
In September, William Phillips was arrested after a search warrant found over seven grams of heroin/fentanyl in his possession. Jessica Phillips was also arrested in September on a probation violation.
Later in September, State Police investigators from Blooming Grove and the Pike County Coroner’s Office responded to a residence in Lackawaxen for a drug overdose. There they discovered Kyle Ackerson, 34, of Lackawaxen deceased. An autopsy concluded that Ackerson had fentanyl, a metabolite of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Pike County Coroner ruled Ackerson’s death as a result of mixed substance toxicity.
Investigators were able to make an undercover purchase of fentanyl from an individual. From there investigators obtained new leads on the source of the fentanyl coming into Wayne and Pike Counties. They learned that Francisco Abreu-Pena of the Bronx was bringing in quantities of fentanyl from New York City.
Through further investigation, investigators were later able to link the drugs used by Ackerson to Abreu-Pena and Wendy Fuehrer.
On October 15, 2018, troopers from the Blooming Grove State Police barracks responded to a residence in Lackawaxen for a possible drug overdose. When they arrived Kyle Messinetti, 26, was transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Messinetti was pronounced dead at the hospital. Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell ordered an autopsy. The autopsy showed that Messinetti died from the pharmacologic effects of fentanyl.
On November, 7, 2018, Pennsylvania State Police Investigators responded to a report of a possible overdose death in Paupack Township, Wayne County at 27 Maple Street the home of Wendy Fuehrer. There investigators discovered Erin Phillips, 32, the sibling of Jessica, Lauren and William Phillips, III, deceased. Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell responded and had an autopsy completed. After the autopsy Phillips’ death was ruled as a result of the pharmacologic effects of fentanyl and cocaine.
Investigators learned that Abreu-Pena had been at the home with Erin Phillips and came out of the room where she was found and told a witness she was not breathing, and that Abreu-Pena thought she was dead. Abreu-Pena then hurriedly left the residence.
In December 2018 investigators made a purchase of suspected fentanyl/heroin from Lauren Phillips in Lackawaxen.
Earlier this month, troopers obtained arrest warrants for Jessica Philips, Lauren Phillips, Diane Phillips and William Phillips, III and Carly Liguori. According to the affidavits, Jessica Phillips told investigators that on September 10, 2018, she asked Charles Warnott to obtain fentanyl/heroin form Abreu-Pena in the Bronx and bring it back to her at a residence in Wayne County. According to Phillips, Warnott obtained 80 grams of fentanyl/heroin and brought it to her that night. Phillips went on to tell investigators that she obtained quantities of fentanyl/heroin on a regular basis from Abreu-Pena to resell in the area.
Lauren Phillips told investigators that the day prior to Kyle Messinetti’s death she received a message from him asking if she wanted any “addies”, which Phillips understood to be Adderall. She then met with Messinetti and traded him some fentanyl for the Adderall. Phillips told investigators that the fentanyl she traded with Messinetti was fentanyl she had received from Abreu-Pena.
Pike County District Attorney Tonkin stated, “the charges we have filed against this drug ring were only possible because of the dedication of State Police investigators to work tirelessly to put an end to the flow of fentanyl into this area. While all played a part in this investigation, the lead investigators were from the State Police Vice Unit. We are extremely pleased with the State Police provided the resources to thoroughly investigate these crimes that took the life of these three young adults.”
Wayne County District Attorney Robinson stated “ I am extremely proud of the cooperative effort put into this investigation and the resulting criminal charges. The Pennsylvania State Police and the PSP Vice Unit did an outstanding job, using the latest technology, to identify these Defendants and charge them appropriately. The District Attorney’s Offices in Wayne and Pike County will continue to work together to address these Drug Delivery Resulting in Death cases. The drug dealers have no regard for county boundaries and we in law enforcement will work together to relentlessly pursue these dealers in poison regardless of where they are found.”