February 1, 2019

Fentanyl ring tied to three deaths broken up

MILFORD The District Attorneys of Pike and Wayne County and the Pennsylvania State Police announced the arrests of seven individuals and an arrest warrant for another related to a drug ring that operated in both Pike and Wayne Counties.  The arrests were the culmination of a five-month long investigation into the sales of heroin and fentanyl by the Pennsylvania State Police Vice unit, and county detectives from both Pike and Wayne County. The Pike County and Wayne County Coroner’s Office were also part of the investigation. The New York State Police and Pike County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in the investigation.

Arrested were Jessica Phillips, 30, of Lackawaxen, Carley Liguori, 27, of Blooming Grove, Diane Phillips, 55, of Lackawaxen, Wendy Fuehrer, 53, of Paupack Township, Wayne County, William Phillips, III, 28, of Lackawaxen, Lauren Phillips, 34, of Lackawaxen, and Charles Warnott, 35, of Honesdale.  Remaining at large is Francisco Abreu-Pena, 44, last known address of the Bronx, NY.

State Police investigators used controlled purchases of fentanyl/heroin, search warrants, electronic surveillance and witness interviews to build the case against the drug ring.  The affidavit indicates a belief of the participants that the fentanyl/heroin was coming from Mexico, and that they travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana to pick it up.

The investigation began in August of last year with a series of purchases of fentanyl and heroin from William Phillips, III, in Lackawaxen and Blooming Grove Townships.  During two of the purchases by an informant, Carley Liguori drove William Phillips to the place set to meet for the sale of the fentanyl/heroin. One at least one occasion, Liguori brought along her five-year old son.

Later in September, State Police investigators from Blooming Grove and the Pike County Coroner’s Office responded to a residence in Lackawaxen for a drug overdose.  There they discovered Kyle Ackerson, 34, of Lackawaxen deceased.  An autopsy concluded that Ackerson had fentanyl, a metabolite of cocaine and alcohol in his system.  Pike County Coroner ruled Ackerson’s death as a result of mixed substance toxicity.  Investigators were able to make an undercover purchase of fentanyl from an individual.  From there investigators obtained new leads on the source of the fentanyl coming into Wayne and Pike Counties.  They learned that Francisco Abreu-Pena of the Bronx was bringing in quantities of fentanyl from New York City.

Through further investigation, investigators were later linked the drugs used by Ackerson to Abreu-Pena and Wendy Fuehrer.

On October 15, 2018, Kyle Messinetti, 26, of Lackawaxen was pronounced dead at Wayne Memorial Hospital.  The autopsy showed that Messinetti died from the pharmacologic effects of fentanyl.

On November, 7, 2018, State Police discovered Erin Phillips, 32, the sibling of Jessica, Lauren and William Phillips, III, deceased.  The autopsy determined Phillips died from the effects of fentanyl and cocaine. 

Investigators learned that Abreu-Pena had been at the home with Erin Phillips and came out of the room where she was found and told a witness she was not breathing, and that Abreu-Pena thought she was dead.  Abreu-Pena then hurriedly left the residence.

The investigation into continuing drug activity continued into the new year, leading to the arrests.

“The charges we have filed against this drug ring were only possible because of the dedication of State Police investigators to work tirelessly to put an end to the flow of fentanyl into this area. While all played a part in this investigation, the lead investigators were from the State Police Vice Unit,” said Pike County District Attorney Tonkin.  “We are extremely pleased with the State Police provided the resources to thoroughly investigate these crimes that took the life of these three young adults.”

Wayne County District Attorney Robinson said “The District Attorney’s Offices in Wayne and Pike County will continue to work together to address these Drug Delivery Resulting in Death cases. The drug dealers have no regard for county boundaries and we in law enforcement will work together to relentlessly pursue these dealers in poison regardless of where they are found.”

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