The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 19, 2012

3 from Somerset County charged in drug ring

Kathy Mellott

JOHNSTOWN — Three area residents are among those accused of running a drug ring that moved heroin and cocaine from Windber to Blair County, where it was distributed from Roaring Spring, the federal Department of Justice said.

The indictment, which followed an investigation by a federal grand jury sitting in Johnstown, charges three people from northern Somerset County and two from Waynesboro, Franklin County, with violating various federal narcotics laws, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said.

Those indicted were:

• Jamie H. Porcher, 27, of the 200 block of 22nd Street, Windber.

• Peter Donato, 29, of the 300 block of Basin Drive, Windber.

• Nicole L. Rankin, 25, of the 1900 block of Krings Street, Tire Hill.

• Corey D. Harley, 38, of Mentzer Gap Road, Waynesboro.

• Kenneth Biser, 59, of the 200 block of Elder Avenue, Waynesboro.

The indictment presented to the court alleges that from November 2011 to July, the defendants conspired to possess and distribute 500 grams of cocaine and 100 grams of heroin.

Authorities said the defendants set up shop at a home in Roaring Spring, where they stored the illegal drugs along with cash and illegal guns.

The drug operation was busted in June when Roaring Spring police, following tips, began arresting suspected members of the ring.

“Someone in town was part of the operation,” Roaring Spring borough police Sgt. Greg Wyandt said Monday. “When we found what was going on, we traced it back to the Cambria County area, and we realized it was bigger than we originally thought.”

Rankin and Donato were arrested in the summer after they allegedly sold 6,000 stamp bags of heroin for more than $15,000 to Joseph Manuel Castro Jr., 28, of the 700 block of Rockingham Avenue, Roaring Spring.

Castro faces felony charges but was not named in the indictment, authorities said.

In a July search of Castro’s home and the search of a neighbor’s home, police said they uncovered $180,000 worth of heroin and two illegally sawed-off shotguns.

Porcher was subsequently arrested during a sweep in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Police alleged that Porcher provided the heroin and driving directions to those selling and delivering the drugs.

However, Roaring Spring police Chief Milton Fields has said Harley was the kingpin.

If convicted, Porcher and Harley could face up to 80 years in prison, according to the Justice Department. Rankin and Donato could get 60 years each, and Biser could get 40 years. Hefty fines also could be imposed against those convicted.

Drug task forces from Cambria, Somerset and Blair counties, police from Roaring Spring and Paint

Township, and the FBI were credited with the investigation that led to the arrests.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Valkovci Jr. is the prosecutor.