Woman charged after cash seized

Helsel connected to prior drug bust of Philly man

Altoona police charged a city woman Thursday with drug-related crimes in connection with a multi-agency drug bust earlier in January, Blair County court documents state.

Joanne A. Helsel, 36, was arraigned Thursday by Magisterial District Judge Andrew Blattenberger on charges relating to her alleged role in a potential drug deal with Anthony Brown, a Philadelphia man charged Jan. 7 with breaking parole to deliver heroin to Altoona, according to court documents.

Law enforcement seized about $2,500 from Helsel’s home, court documents stated.

Court documents also spelled Helsel’s first name as Joann.

When Brown was approached in Altoona by law enforcement personnel Jan. 7, Brown fled the scene, a criminal complaint stated. Traveling to Altoona from Philadelphia violated the conditions of Brown’s state parole, police reported.

As Brown evaded police, he allegedly discarded packages of heroin, which he later admitted were intended for delivery to a person in Altoona, court documents stated.

Police accused Helsel on Thursday of being the person to whom Brown was slated to deliver the heroin.

After detaining Brown, law enforcement personnel interviewed people living near the area where Brown was first approached, including Helsel, court documents stated.

One of the interviewees told police Helsel gave him a plastic bag full of pills to hide when police knocked at her door, police reported.

The pills were identified as Gabapentin, an antiepileptic and anticonvulsant medication used to relieve nerve pain, according to a criminal complaint.

Police reported Helsel was initially uncooperative during questioning, but later, she allegedly admitted to contacting Brown by phone, so that he could deliver a large amount of heroin to her, court documents stated.

Helsel also allegedly told police she previously sold heroin to other people, including family members, and said she asked the previous interviewee to hide the Gabapentin pills for her, police reported.

Unable to post her $50,000 cash bail, Helsel has been detained at the Blair County Prison. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before Judge Ben Jones, according to court documents.

Mirror Staff Writer Ike Fredregill is at 814-946-7458.


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