BEDFORD - Police in Bedford County arrested at least 18 of 23 people accused of low-level drug dealing Tuesday in a countywide sweep that targeted suspects as young as 17 and as far away as Altoona.
The early morning arrests, dubbed "Operation Stocking Stuffer" for the holiday season, hit alleged dealers who, according to police affidavits, sold heroin, prescription pills and counterfeit drugs to undercover officers and their informants. One is accused of illicitly selling a handgun, while at least two allegedly involved children in deals.
"Taking these people off the streets will make Christmastime in Bedford County a lot happier," District Attorney Bill Higgins said at a press conference, flanked by the Everett and Bedford police chiefs, a state police sergeant and a sheriff's deputy.
Higgins acknowledged that there were "no major players in this arrest," which followed a similar operation in March. All the targets in that sweep have since been convicted, Higgins said.
Tuesday's arrests included Lisa Donelson of Saxton, who allegedly sold hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller, alongside a 17-year-old relative. Police charged Donelson with endangering the welfare of a child and corrupting a minor, according to court documents.
Police said another alleged dealer, Rebecca Rhoades of Roaring Spring, kept a 9-year-old boy in her car while she sold morphine to a police informant.
Rhoades faces child endangerment and corruption charges, as well.
Christy Lynn Bottenfield of Hopewell sold an informant a 9 mm handgun for $325 and four strips of Suboxone, a synthetic drug sometimes used to wean addicts off heroin, for $75.
Three suspects - Jason Michael Ritchey, Jerome John-Henry Snowden and Courtney Jane Fleegle, all of Manns Choice - were arrested for possessing a marijuana plant and several grams of the drug after a roommate moved out due to "possible illegal drug activity," police said in an affidavit.
Several suspects were arrested after selling small amounts of heroin or marijuana to police and informants.
Nathan Eshelman of Bedford and Amber Ramsey of Manns Choice allegedly sold an informant fake heroin.
When the informant later asked Eshelman on Facebook whether the drugs were fake, he said Ramsey "must have cut it pretty hard," police said.
Three of the initial 23 suspects remained at large Tuesday afternoon: George Anthony Lozada, 28, of Bedford; Anthony Wayne Hornbaker, 24, of Saxton; and Jared Thomas McGregor, 31, of New Paris.
Each faces a single count of distributing or intending to distribute drugs.
At the Tuesday press conference, State Police Sgt. Bradley Hershey solicited help from the public in
finding the last three suspects.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.