Defendants charged with selling drugs at home in presence of two children
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced felony charges against three Clearfield County residents for their roles in a drug ring that trafficked and sold crystal methamphetamine and cocaine in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The charges include drug offenses and child endangerment, since two children were present at the home during many drug sales allegedly committed by the defendants.
The charges announced by Shapiro today were recommended by the 43rd Pennsylvania Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.
According to the Grand Jury’s presentment, Sondra McQuillen, 53, of the 3100 block of Sanborn Road, Houtzdale, traveled to Akron, Ohio on 26 occasions, where she obtained methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs from a source.
The Grand Jury found that Jason Merritts, 37, and Joyce Merritts, 32, of the 1000 block of Park Avenue Extension, Clearfield County, bought the methamphetamine from McQuillen, and sold the drugs to a confidential informant working with the Attorney General’s office.
McQuillen was charged with multiple counts of possession with the intent to deliver, delivery, corrupt organizations, and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities.
The Merritts face similar charges for 18 purchases of methamphetamine – as well as being charged with endangering the welfare of children, since their 10- and 12-year-old children were present during many of the drug buys in their home.
“The illegal distribution of drugs is fueling an epidemic across Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. “Crystal methamphetamine trafficking is on the rise again, particularly in rural parts of our Commonwealth – and our agents and prosecutors will investigate and charge it wherever we find it.
“This case is particularly egregious, since the defendants are charged with selling drugs in the presence of two young children. That’s reprehensible and we’re holding them accountable.”
The investigation was developed by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control. The investigators used a confidential informant in September of 2017, who made controlled purchases of drugs from Jason and Joyce Merritts.
Following those purchases, investigators identified the local sources, Sondra McQuillen and Donald Mullens and subsequently the source in Ohio, James Thomas, who is alleged to have delivered pound quantities of methamphetamine on multiple occasions.
In July of 2018, investigators followed McQuillen on three separate occasions to Ohio where she picked up the drugs. On July 26, investigators conducted a traffic stop and searched her vehicle, seizing six ounces of methamphetamine, two eighth ounces of cocaine and other drugs.
The Merritts were arrested the same July day on charges stemming from one of the controlled purchases, pending the issuance of the Grand Jury presentment, which recommended multiple, additional charges against them.
Working with the Grand Jury, agents and prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office brought individuals before the panel who testified and identified Sondra McQuillen and Donald Mullins, who died of a drug overdose in May, as the original Clearfield County sources of the drugs.
Joint coordination between the Attorney General’s office, Akron, Ohio law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led to James Thomas being charged federally in connection with drug seizures of approximately one pound of methamphetamine, cocaine, firearms and almost $50,000 cash from his home and business.
The estimated street value of all of the crystal methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs distributed by this drug ring during its operation is $1.5 million.
“Thanks to strong law enforcement collaboration between our office, Akron, Ohio law enforcement and the DEA – and the hard work of the men and women of the 43rd Statewide Investigative Grand Jury – we’ve broken up this drug ring peddling its poisons in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
“We’re doing whatever it takes to attack this problem in cities, towns and counties across Pennsylvania – and anywhere else our investigations may lead.”