The state Attorney General’s Office calls its investigation “Operation Penalty Stroke”. A term used in golf because the alleged ringleader of a massive cocaine ring owns a golf course in Wayne County.
The 76-year-old is among the prominent people accused of dealing $1.4 million worth of cocaine in our area.
Twenty people were charged in Waymart Friday for allegedly being part of the multi-county drug ring. The investigation is centered around Red Maples Golf Course outside Waymart.
Red Maples is where police said the $1.4 million worth of cocaine was distributed. The course’s owner and 19 other people face serious drug charges.
Suspected drug dealers from Lackawanna, Susquehanna, and Wayne counties were brought in for arraignment in connection with “Operation Penalty Stroke”.
“It’s a big investigation, especially for here in Wayne County. Like at a golf course, I know this is my first investigation that dealt with dealing drugs out of a golf course,” said John Soprano of the Attorney General’s Office.
Angelo Pozza, 76, owns the Red Maples and police charged him as the ring leader of the scheme. According to cops, his place of business was where more than 15,000 grams of cocaine was stored and distributed.
Cathy Gabriel, of Scott Township, was charged with delivering the cocaine to Pozza. She allegedly brought the drugs from New York City to the golf course.
“It was the perfect front. It was innocent looking but it had the same amount and the same effect, the same damaging effect, as it would any other cover,” said Deputy Attorney General Tim Doherty.
The Attorney General’s Office said Angelo Pozza from Red Maples wasn’t the only one putting up a good front.
Other suspected dealers have notable associations with schools and businesses. Cathy Gabriel used to work for Sarno and Son in Scranton. John Waibel, accused of being a dealer, is a gym teacher at East Stroudsburg North High School.
Donald Edwards, a suspected dealer, manages Clifford Hotel in Susquehanna County, and Brian Petrosky owns a long-time pierogie business in Simpson.
Proof, prosecutors said, that suspected drug dealers don’t always fit a stereotype.
Many of the 20 people facing charges following “Operation Penalty Stroke” were released on bail. Defense attorneys said the investigation was so wide-spread, prosecutors may have a weak case.
“Basically it’s a watered down investigation where they already arrested the guy responsible for selling the drugs and they kind of just picked up the pieces from there and you normally don’t see that from most investigations,” said attorney Bernie Brown.
Red Maples Golf Course is the only business that investigators said was involved in the drug ring.