16 waive hearings in Venango drug case

Sixteen defendants who were charged in connection with a drug trafficking organization that was responsible for the distribution of cocaine and heroin in Venango County two weeks ago waived their preliminary hearings Wednesday in Central Court.

The defendants who waived their hearings include Dawn Bellinger of Oil City, Rita Bugna of Oil City, Alex Chechak of Seneca, Amy Donovan of Franklin, Clint Donovan of Franklin, Thomas James of Oil City, Russell Krizon of Franklin, Casey London of Oil City, Jennifer Moon of Oil City, Kevin O’Brien of Oil City, Krystal Rocco of Franklin, Geralyn Silvis of Oil City, Damien Sloan of Oil City, Ronald Sowers of Franklin, Keith Tanner of Polk and Karen Willis of Rouseville.

Six more defendants – Donald Aguilera of Franklin, Ashley Feely of Oil City, Randal Malone of Oil City, Courtney Renninger of Titusville, Rebecca Townsend of Oil City and Vanessa Willis of Oil City – had their preliminary hearings continued to a later date Wednesday.

The majority of the defendants are facing charges that include possession of a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility for their alleged role in the operation.

The charges are the result of a joint investigation that commenced in May of last year between the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Calvin Ludy, who investigators determined was the head of the organization that operated primarily in Oil City and Franklin, is scheduled to appear in Central Court on May 25, along with several other defendants who were arrested on March 30 in conjunction with the execution of seven search warrants in the region.

The searches resulted in the seizure of about 24.5 ounces of cocaine valued at roughly $34,425, about 14 grams of crack cocaine and 3.5 grams of heroin valued at $1,800.