Storefront used in city drug sting

WARREN – While accused mid- and higher-level drug dealers begin appearing in federal court to help spell out the drug conspiracies connecting Warren and Detroit, other locals are beginning to show up for their dates in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

And the majority of those 42 people indicted last week on state charges are discovering that it was a deal they couldn’t pass up at Stinky Pete’s that led to their arrests.

Prosecutors and police have confirmed that the storefront that once housed Unlimited Electronics at Youngstown Road and Adelaide Avenue S.E. was used to lure customers bartering with illegal drugs and guns. When goods are purchased with contraband it is considered trafficking in drugs.

”Our office observed a similar operation somewhere else and our people and police in Warren thought it would work. Some of the money to set it up came from the state. But for the most part it was resources from ATF (federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) that was used to set up the place,” said Lt. Jeff Orr of Trumbull-Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force. He declined to say where the store’s inventory came from and said federal authorities would have to itemize just how much contraband was taken in.

Orr said the store experienced more legal purchases than illegal purchases that resulted in indictments. He said the operation discouraged trading goods for what could have been stolen property since that could have encouraged more thefts and break-ins throughout the city.

It was a sting setup that has become common among federal agents looking to quickly get guns and drugs off the street.

A local woman indicted last week who spoke on the condition of anonimity said she turned over a few Vicodin pills to purchase a knockoff Coach purse. She said a friend told her about the deal and she eventually used the pills to buy a pair of blue jeans she said would usually go for more than $100 at a retail store.

Stinky Pete’s that operated from April 2012 until earlier this year, used word of mouth more than anything else. Customers with contraband were reportedly captured on videotape to strengthen the evidence for court.

A similar undercover operation with the storefront name of Crossbones in Palm Beach, Fla., shut down recently with the conclusion of what was dubbed ”Operation Smoking Gun.”

Stinky Pete’s set up shop shortly after 47 arrests were reported out of a similar storefront in Mansfield.

Although some of those caught in the sting allege entrapment on the part of drug agents, authorities report that prosecutions in other courts have held up and not been overturned on appeal. They say it’s a proven method of removing the contraband from the streets.

”In my 22 years of practicing I’ve never seen a more textbook example of entrapment. We’re anxious to try these cases,” said defense attorney Jeff Goodman, who said his office already has been in touch with four or five potential clients.

”These aren’t drug dealers. They’re not Detroit boys. Some of them are people who still had scripts for Oxy (Oxycontin) and turned them over for a pair of shoes,” Goodman said.

More than 80 of the 97 people named in state and federal indictments that were unsealed April 17 as part of “Operation: Little D-Town” have been arrested, turned themselves in or are already behind bars in connection with other cases.

Two more people turned themselves in Tuesday in Common Pleas Court where they pleaded not guilty and were released on $2,500 bond pending pre-trials later before Judge Ronald Rice.

Caliqua Smith 35, of Hemlock Avenue, Warren, faces one count of trafficking marijuana, and Randall Morgan, 27, of Southwest Boulevard S.W., Warren, faces one count of trafficking cocaine.