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June 17, 2014

Pair get prison for heroin sales: Wife drove car as husband peddled drugs

EBENSBURG — A Croyle Township husband and wife charged with numerous heroin sales in and around Johns­town late last year entered guilty pleas and were sentenced Tuesday in Cambria County court.

Dennis Ricks, 29, and his wife, Roseann Ricks, 30, both of the 500 block of Beaver Run Road, Sidman, will spend time in state prison as a result of their arrests by Johnstown police and a task force through the state attorney general’s office.

Dennis Ricks faced stiffer charges because he is prohibited from possessing a gun and one was found in his possession. He pleaded guilty to one count each of illegal possession of a firearm, corrupt organization and possession with intent to deliver drugs, and four counts of drug delivery.

Judge Patrick Kiniry sentenced him to six to 12 years in prison and ordered him to pay court costs and restitution to the state police crime lab.

Roseann Ricks, who was represented by Johnstown attorney Arthur McQuillan, pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy. She was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison and ordered to pay similar costs.

Attorney Tomm Mutschler of the attorney general’s office, who prosecuted the pair, told the court that Roseann Ricks drove the car during the four controlled drug purchases in the Johnstown area during November.

The plea hearing for Dennis Ricks was delayed by two hours after he refused to talk to his attorney, Patricia Moore of the county public defender’s office.

Ricks became irate before the judge entered the courtroom, and as Moore tried to calm him, he accused her of harassing him.

“This lady is harassing me. Let me out of here,” Ricks said to sheriff’s deputies. “Can I get out of here?”

He was removed from the courtroom and taken to a basement holding cell.

When it was believed that Dennis Ricks would be taken back to the prison where he and his wife have been since their November arrest, Moore said her client was prepared to enter the plea.

He was hesitant to go along with the deal because he had hoped to keep his wife from a significant sentence, Moore said.

“Mr. Ricks wanted to take full responsibility on himself,“ Moore told Kiniry. “He wanted her to be able to get out of jail for the children. That is a laudable effort on Mr. Ricks’ behalf.”

Under questioning by Kiniry, Dennis Ricks said he came to the Johnstown area seven years ago after marrying his wife, who is from the region. Ricks said he was unable to find suitable employment because of a criminal record from his hometown of New York City and began dealing drugs.

The Ricks’ case gained attention in January when District Judge Rick Varner of Sidman dismissed the charges.

At the preliminary hearing before Varner, prosecutors were unable to provide documentation regarding a warrant used to search the Ricks’ home, and a number of issues surfaced regarding laboratory testing of the confiscated heroin.

The district attorney’s office had the case assigned to Ebensburg District Judge Fred Creany and the charges were refiled.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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