Police spent Monday morning looking for about a dozen people suspected of dealing drugs in Blair County.
It was a heroin addiction that landed 38-year-old Joshua Haddock, a father of two from Altoona, in handcuffs in Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner's courtroom Monday for arraignment on felony and misdemeanor drug charges.
"At one point, I was using eight to 10 bags a day," Haddock said, telling Aigner that he has sought treatment but was only approved for a three-day program and hopes that now that he has a state medical card, he'll be able to get on a maintenance drug such as Suboxone.
"I've tried to slow down - get Suboxone when I can and do a bag or two to get by," Haddock said of how he's tried to manage his opiate addiction, one that he indicated was behind the five sales of heroin police contend he made to informants in 2013 and 2014.
"I didn't know they were felonies," Haddock said of the sales made by Altoona police and state police informants. "I thought it was just me and a friend putting together money to get some to use."
State police allege Haddock sold heroin to an informant three times in August 2013, each sale for about 10 bags of heroin in exchange for $200.
In September 2013, Haddock allegedly sold an informant 20 bags for $400.
Altoona police allege Haddock sold an informant 10 bags of heroin in April of this year, keeping one of the bags for himself for setting up the deal, according to police.
"At the end of the day, it's still illegal," said James Walstrom, Supervisory Agent with the state Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation. "You can't be selling heroin just because you're addicted."
Walstrom called Monday's sweep of suspected street-level dealers "a clean-up" of a year's-worth of drug investigations by the Blair County Drug Task Force.
Walstrom said the majority of arrests are related to heroin and prescription pills, and opiates remain the area's biggest problem. Walstrom said heroin and opiate use breeds addicts, and those addicts turn to dealing to support their own habits, helping get others addicted.
"It's a vicious circle," he said.
The investigations into the suspected drug dealers were funded through Operation Our Town and will be prosecuted by Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio's office, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Monday in a press release.
Overdoses and overdose deaths remain an increasing threat across the state, Kane added.
Back in Judge Aigner's courtroom, Haddock asked to remain free pending his Aug. 21 preliminary hearing on the charges. He told Aigner he had used heroin two days before his arrest.
"I'm not a bad person," said Haddock, who has no criminal record and has worked for a local paving company for 10 years. "I'm not going to run."
Aigner pointed to the six felony counts Haddock faces and set bail at a total of $85,000 cash.
"You're charged with some serious crimes," Aigner said.
By 5 p.m., all suspects except three were in custody.
One suspect, Thomas Olson, 51, of Altoona died in April in a shooting incident in Chambersburg, police said, while Lynorris Wilson, 32, 1924 Fourth Ave. and Heather Koelle, 40, 1906 Fifth Ave., Apt. B., remained at large.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.