CLEARFIELD – Three people accused of being involved with trafficking methamphetamine and other drugs in Pennsylvania and Ohio were scheduled to appear for their preliminary hearings Wednesday.
Sondra L. McQuillen, 53, of Houtzdale has been charged by the Attorney General’s Office with 10 felony counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and felony counts of conspiracy, criminal use of communication facility, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, knowledge that property is proceeds of illegal act, corrupt organizations and conspire to violate 911b1, 911b2, 911b3.
Jason L. Merritts, 36, of Clearfield has been charged with 14 felony counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and felony counts of conspiracy, criminal use of communication facility, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, knowledge that property is proceeds of illegal act, corrupt organizations and conspire to violate 911b1, 911b2, 911b3.
Joyce L. Merritts, 32, also of Clearfield, has been charged with five felony counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and felony counts of conspiracy, criminal use of communication facility, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, knowledge that property is proceeds of illegal act, corrupt organizations and conspire to violate 911b1, 911b2, 911b3.
Both Jason and Joyce Merritts have also been charged with a felony count of endangering the welfare of children. Two children were present at the couple’s residence during many of the alleged drug sales.
McQuillen and Joyce Merritts waived their rights to preliminary hearings during centralized court Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail. Jason Merritts had his preliminary hearing continued until Oct. 3. Bail remains set at $100,000 monetary in all three cases.
The charges stem from a grand jury investigation into the distribution of methamphetamine in the Clearfield County area by Donald Mullens, McQuillen, Jason and Joyce Merritts and other co-conspirators.
According to the grand jury presentment, in September of 2017, an AG narcotics agent was introduced to a confidential informant who wanted to provide information about the local distribution of the drug.
The CI’s information was subsequently corroborated by law enforcement’s investigative techniques, such as surveillance, other information sources and grand jury testimony.
From Sept. 29, 2017 through July 6, law enforcement made 18 controlled purchases through the use of the CI. He/she arranged the purchases of methamphetamine via phone calls and text messages.
Each controlled purchase allegedly occurred at the apartment of Jason and Joyce Merritts at the Lawrence Park Village Apartment Complex, Clearfield, except for one that occurred in February at the Super 8 Motel, Clearfield.
Testimony revealed that Jason and Joyce Merritts obtained their quantities of methamphetamine from Mullens and McQuillen. This information was supported by tracking device data, surveillance, etc.
The Merritts reportedly made statements during several controlled purchases that further connected Mullens and McQuillen to the methamphetamine. Jason Merritts also reportedly admitted to the CI that his supply came from Mullens and McQuillen.
Subsequent to several controlled purchases, investigators identified the local sources as Mullens and McQuillen, as well as their source in Akron, Ohio, James Thomas, who is alleged to have supplied up to one-pound quantities of methamphetamine to Mullens and or McQuillen on several occasions when they traveled to Ohio to meet him.
In April, Mullens allegedly purchased one-pound of the drug from Thomas once or twice a week. Thomas told McQuillen he charged Mullens $10,000 per pound. The Grand Jury also learned that McQuillen often traveled to Ohio for Mullens, who was under state supervision.
Text messages received by the CI confirmed that Mullens and McQuillen made trips to Ohio for short periods of time, approximately two hours. Such trips, based upon expert testimony from two AG narcotics agents, were consistent with drug dealers obtaining additional supplies for re-sale.
Mullens remained part of the drug ring’s operation until his overdose death May 22. After Mullens’ death, McQuillen continued to distribute methamphetamine, according to the grand jury presentment, but restricted customers to those with whom she had “close relationships” with, such as the Merritts.
Investigators said that she continued to travel to Ohio and obtained at least four ounces of methamphetamine from Thomas on every trip. Phone records determined she made 26 trips between January and July.
On July 26, law enforcement officers followed McQuillen to meet Thomas. She allegedly purchased methamphetamine and other drugs for $3,800 from him. On her trip back to Clearfield, a traffic stop was conducted and investigators searched her vehicle.
Investigators seized six ounces of methamphetamine; two, one-eighth ounces of cocaine/crack; a small quantity of marijuana; and a quantity of pills suspected to be prescription medications.
A search warrant was executed on the residences of McQuillen and the Merritts. From McQuillen’s home, police seized $10,000, drug paraphernalia, prescription pills and multiple telephones.
At the Merritts’ residence, investigators recovered drugs and paraphernalia, a handgun and a cellular telephone.
The Grand Jury learned that McQuillen and the Merritts used proceeds from drug sales to purchase more methamphetamine and drugs. Proceeds were also reportedly used for their basic living expenses.
Joint coordination between the Attorney General’s Office, Akron, Ohio law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led to 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, according to a previously-published press release from the AG’s Office.