Bust targets 20 accused dealers

Sitting handcuffed before Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller, 29-year-old Danielle L. Brumbaugh said she was in treatment for heroin addiction and trying to get her life together.

Brumbaugh was one of 20 street- and mid-level drug dealers targeted Monday in the latest drug sweep by Altoona police, state narcotics agents with the Attorney General’s Office and the Blair County Drug Task Force.

“I’m different now; I’ve changed,” said Brumbaugh, who described her arrest on selling heroin as a product of an irresponsible and difficult time in her life.

Judge Miller pointed out one of the two heroin cases filed against Brumbaugh by Altoona police only dates back to January of this year, suggesting to him that despite seeking treatment for her heroin addiction, she still had work to do to get her life turned around.

Brumbaugh said that since April she has taken Suboxone for her addiction and attends 10 hours of treatment each week. She is accused of selling two packets of heroin for $50 to a police informant back in September and selling four wax packets of the drug to an informant for $100 on Jan. 18.

Because of a detainer placed on her by her probation officer, Brumbaugh was headed to Blair County Prison even before Miller set bail. Miller said his first concern was who would care for Brumbaugh’s three children, ages 9, 8 and 6, while she was in jail.

After learning the father of one of Brumbaugh’s children would take all three children, Miller admonished Brumbaugh to re-evaluate her priorities.

“You’ve got to do what’s best for your kids,” Miller said. “When you put them first, it will make you a better person.”

By mid-day Monday, all but four suspects were in custody, and of the 20 suspects facing charges, four are already in prison on other matters.

Of the 20 suspects, 13 are charged with selling heroin, four are accused of selling prescription drugs, two are charged with selling cocaine and one suspect allegedly sold both cocaine and heroin.

“Heroin is still a major problem in Altoona and the commonwealth,” said Anthony Sassano, regional director for the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation.

Sassano said as the supply of heroin remains high and prices remain low, people who are addicted to painkillers are finding it easier to get heroin than prescription pills. Attorney General Kathleen Kane noted in a press release that, “The link between prescription drug abuse and heroin is undeniable.

“Individuals who use prescription pills recreationally are 19 times more likely to begin using heroin,” Kane said. “The demand for these drugs has not diminished, therefore counterdrug efforts in Altoona will remain a focus for my office and local law enforcement.”

Sassano pointed out Monday’s arrests are the result of yearlong investigations by Altoona police and detectives from the Blair County District Attorney’s Office.

“It’s a great job by the Altoona Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office,” Sassano said. “If it wasn’t for them, then it would be much worse in the city.”