HOLLIDAYSBURG - Is an Altoona man a businessman or drug dealer?
It is a question a Blair County judge will have to answer after Blair County Assistant District Attorney Russell Montgomery filed a request to confiscate eight homes that Ramone Brown, 47, purchased during the years police said he was a major local drug dealer.
Police said they made drug purchases from Brown, and from individuals living in four of the eight homes. All eight homes should be confiscated as proceeds of illegal activity, Montgomery said.
"Ramone Brown has been a major narcotics dealer in Blair County for years, acquiring large sums of money and real estate with the proceeds from his illegal activities," court documents filed last week state.
Montgomery, who handles confiscations for the DA's office, filed 140 petitions last year to seize property or currency.
Most of the petitions filed by Montgomery involve small amounts of money that police find when they arrest the suspected dealers or issue search warrants for their homes.
That was the way it was to be with Brown.
Montgomery said he was preparing a forfeiture petition to take $690 that police found during Brown's most recent arrest when he noticed that all the houses Brown purchased between 2002 and 2009 - the time of his reputed major drug activities.
The properties included 1525-27 10th St., 1412 17th Ave., 1529-31 10th St., 1208 Fourth Ave., 1206 15th Ave., 1004-1004 Fifth Ave., 1210 18th Ave. and 611 Fifth Ave.
Further investigation showed police purchased drugs from dealers at 1004-1004 Fifth Ave., 1206 15th Ave., 1208 14th Ave., and 611 Fifth Ave, Montgomery said.
Montgomery indicated that one of the sales from 611 Fifth Ave. involved dealer Gene Carter and a woman working for him.
Carter last month received the longest sentence ever for a drug dealer in Blair County, 104 to 216 years, imposed by Senior Judge Thomas G. Peoples.
The petition has yet to be served on Brown, who is doing time at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview.
Brown was sentenced by Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle to five to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation after a 2009 conviction by a jury for possession with intent to deliver cocaine.
Brown had 26 prior arrests, 17 convictions, a 25-year history of criminal activity and had served time in a state prison in the 1990s, according to the prosecutor in his 2009 case, Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard.
Brown, a native of Philadelphia, came to Altoona in 1994, and Bernard said during his sentencing, "And what has he brought to Blair County since then? He's brought nothing but his criminal history and his criminal acts."
The defendant disagreed with the picture drawn of him by Bernard, stating that while doing state prison time in the 1990s, he obtained his GED diploma.
Brown said that once he was out of prison, he began buying property at Blair County tax sales and said he was rehabilitating the properties to create affordable housing in the city.
He said he'd bought nine properties and added, "I provide housing for nine people right now."