Two defendants charged in connection with a drug trafficking organization responsible for the distribution of cocaine and heroin in Venango County were held for court Wednesday.
Virginia Loggins, 30, of Erie and Meagan Henderson, 22, of Oil City appeared before district judge Matthew Kirtland during the joint preliminary hearing in Central Court.
Deputy attorney general Roger Bauer opened the hearing by bringing the arresting officer in the case, trooper Jonathan Matson, to the stand for questioning.
Matson, who is assigned to the Pennsylvania state police’s Bureau of Investigation and the Northwest Strike Force, testified about the extent of an investigation into the drug organization that began in May 2015.
Matson detailed some of the key players in the organization including Calvin Ludy, Antonyo Harris, Javon Albright and Jesse McLemore, each of which were held for court two weeks ago in Central Court on charges stemming from the investigation.
Controlled buys, as well as physical/video surveillance and authorized wire taps, were used during the investigation to gather evidence, Matson said.
During Matson’s testimony, he said Harris was observed going into Henderson’s West Fourth Street home in Oil City last December and a trash pull, which was conducted at the residence, revealed 80 Ziploc bags with both corners removed, something Matson said is consistent with drug activity.
Based on intercepted phone calls ranging from February to March, Matson said he believed Henderson was storing narcotics for Harris.
He cited an example when Harris and Henderson were observed having a hand to hand exchange outside the West Fourth Street residence shortly after having a phone conversation.
On a separate occasion, Matson said Harris asked Henderson to tell him how much of each drug was left.
Additional intercepted phone calls revealed conversations between Harris and Loggins, including one from Feb. 19 where Loggins asked Harris about getting marijuana, Matson said.
When a search warrant was executed March 30 at Loggins’ residence in Erie, about two ounces of cocaine were found, Matson said.
Attorney Robert Kinnear, who represented Henderson, had no argument following the cross examination period.
On the other side, Loggins’ defense attorney, Melissa Bergman, argued that the testimony given Wednesday did not show sufficient evidence that Loggins was a part of the drug organization.
Bergman said the testimony talked about Loggins wanting to purchase personal-use marijuana, but nothing that was presented connected her to the trafficking of cocaine or heroin.
She also argued that the cocaine seized from Loggins’ home in March was found in a male’s jacket, leaving the possibility that the drugs did not belong to Loggins.
However, Kirtland ruled that all charges against Loggins, including one count each of corrupt organizations – employee, conspiracy, manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, intentional possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of a communications facility dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and knowledge that property is proceeds of an illegal act, would be bound over to the Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings.
Kirtland also ruled that all charges against Henderson would be held for court.
Henderson has been charged with one count of corrupt organizations – employee, one count of conspiracy, two counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, two counts of intentional possession of a controlled substance, one count of criminal use of a communications facility, one count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and one count of knowledge that property is proceeds of an illegal act.
Three other defendants – Shannon Norr, Courtney Renninger and Vanessa Willis – who were charged for their alleged role in the organization, waived their preliminary hearings Wednesday.