Federal, state and local law enforcement officers made 38 arrests and broke up a major methamphetamine distribution ring in Clearfield County, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady said Friday in Johnstown.
John Christopher Bisbee, 40, of Erie, and Alexis Brolin Jr., 51, of Allport, Clearfield County, were the “principal administrators, organizers, supervisors and leaders” of what Brady called the “Bisbee-Brolin drug trafficking organization.”
They and 36 others were indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in Johnstown on charges including violating federal narcotics laws, money laundering and unlawful possession of firearms. The indictment was returned on May 19 and unsealed on Friday, after the arrests.
Brady stood with Clearfield County District Attorney Ryan Sayers, Pennsylvania State Police Maj. Stephen K. Eberle, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Scott Bauer and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent in Charge Paris Pratt as he announced the arrests during a press conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Johnstown.
Bisbee and Brolin were charged with “participating in a continuing criminal enterprise as principal administrator that involves 1,000 grams or more of methamphetamine or 10 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine” – a charge that calls for a mandatory sentence of life in prison, according to Brady’s office.
“This is the largest drug prosecution in the history of Clearfield County,” Brady said, “and to our knowledge, our collective knowledge, it’s the largest meth prosecution in this area that we have ever seen.”
The arrests and indictments were the result of an 18-month investigation known officially as “Operation Crystal Highway,” Bauer said, adding that multiple kilograms of methamphetamine, numerous firearms and more than $323,000 in cash were seized as a result of that investigation.
“As I’ve talked about many times, including here in Johnstown, we’re in the fourth wave in many communities of the opioid crisis,” Brady said. “The first wave was prescription medication. The second wave – heroin. The third wave – fentanyl. The fourth wave is methamphetamine. … Methamphetamine is a clear and present danger to every community in western Pennsylvania.”
Brady said that the methamphetamine now being distributed in western Pennsylvania is “not the methamphetamine of even five or 10 years ago that was being made in people’s garages or basements.” It’s now being produced and distributed by Mexican cartels “with a purity that we have not seen before.”
Methamphetamine seized as part of Operation Crystal Highway was tested and found to have a purity of 97% to 98%, he said.
“This is not just limited to our cities,” Brady said. “This is coming into every community in western Pennsylvania, as we see in this case. In fact, what we’re seeing is drug trafficking organizations and gangs are actually targeting smaller communities. We’re seeing DTOs and gangs coming across Interstate 80. The Detroit, and Cleveland and Youngstown gangs come across to the Titusvilles, the Oil Citys, the Clearfields, the DuBoises, and they set up shop here.”
Brady revealed few details of the Bisbee-Brolin organization’s alleged operations during Friday’s press conference. According to a press release from Brady’s office, members of the organization were “bringing kilo quantities of meth from Atlanta for distribution throughout north-central PA.”
Brady declined to say on Friday how the methamphetamine was transported from Atlanta to Pennsylvania.