Officials detail meth operation at ‘The Farm’
A total of 16 individuals — all facing potential life sentences — have been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a methamphetamine operation at “The Farm” in Grand Valley.
Warren County law enforcement were instrumental in uncovering the operation, which Chief County Detective Brian Zeybel described as “run like a business.”
It took 18 months of daily intelligence updating to put the puzzle together.
District Attorney Rob Greene said the case “originally … started with the Warren County Drug Task Force (who) had made drug buys from people that were coming from ‘The Farm.’ ‘The Farm’ was on our radar.”
“The Farm” refers to the Grand Valley location at 530 Hunter School Rd. where this operation was headquartered.
Greene said the Task Force had confidential informants working at “The Farm” but hadn’t procured enough information to justify raiding the facility.
“Some of the names were familiar,” Sheriff Ken Klakamp said, “names that we had heard in the past.”
He said law enforcement officers in the county were put on notice of a need for backup should they conduct any traffic stops in the southwest corner of the county.
The Task Force intelligence officer, not named for security reasons, contacted Titusville Police, who had pulled over a vehicle, Greene explained, and found one of the known associates at “The Farm” with a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
“Because of the drug connection and the meth that was coming out of ‘The Farm,’ which was not your Mom and Pop met lab… the intelligence officer contacted ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms).”
“The nexus is made between all our drug intel and the Titusville gun intel,” Zeybel said, “dealing with the same human beings.”
That kicked off a collaboration in the case among local and federal law enforcement agencies where the trail of the meth was discovered.
Federal officials allege that Carina Tucker, Titusville, and Gail Flick, Garland, would drive to Akron, Ohio two to three times per week to pick up half a pound of methamphetamine. Zeybel said they would return through Erie and drop to Titusville — “they all called Titusville T-Vegas” — and the meth “spiderwebbed” through the area to the end user.
Calculations by the Task Force estimate each half-pound run equating to $2,400 in street value.
Zeybel said he was constantly being fed intelligence on the operation.
Think of trying to put a puzzle together without the edge pieces.
“We’d try to put that back into this puzzle,” he said. “This was just a non-stop, ongoing” operation. “Every piece of intel went some place in there.”
He said once the puzzle was three-fourths complete, it was “valuable” for connecting to other agencies and enabled investigators to “start looking at this as a global or larger issue rather than just ‘The Farm’ being the problem.”
With all of the intelligence in hand, the Drug Task Force held a meeting with local and federal agencies over a year ago.
“All of that intel was gathered by the Drug Task Force to our knowledge,” Greene said. “We gave them all this information.”
“We supplied the ATF a packet with names, connections… flow charts of how this is working, all on the drug end,” Zeybel said. “That gave them the big picture where the gun was involved… and solidified (that) this is an operation, not someone selling a little bit of meth.
“That leads to a raid eventually,” he added.
Half of the officers involved in the raid were Warren County Drug Task Force.
“Where we were valuable there, we were identifying people via face and via recognition,” Zeybel said. “They (federal officials) don’t know that. During that raid, local intel was invaluable.”
Two guns and drugs, he said, were seized during that raid.
But the “intel keeps going,” Zeybel said. “‘The Farm’ doesn’t cease. It lays low for a little bit and picks right back up with some different players.”
After that first raid, he said, Tucker “steps up and takes over the operation because she understood it.” He described her as the “matriarch of ‘The Farm.'”
Illegal firearm activity, officials indicate, declined but not the flow of drugs.
That led to a second raid and Zeybel said Tucker was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver at that point.
Tucker faces two separate PWID dockets in Warren County.
First Assistant District Attorney Cody Brown said that one was filed May 8, 2019, against her and Anthony Stufflebeam for sale to a confidential informant with the second set of charges coming from the Sept. 2019 raid.
Greene said that “at this point” those charges “will continue to be pursued.”
“The Farm” was “basically shut down” after the second raid, Zeybel said.
Klakamp said sheriff’s deputies were there to serve civil papers and reported that The Farm was “like a ghost town.”
“From Akron to the final distribution on a small location or single house in Warren County, we could follow that trail,” Zeybel said. “That made that intelligence so valuable.”
Greene credited all of the law enforcement involved — Task Force members with the Sheriff’s Office and City of Warren police, Titusville Police, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and the Pennsylvania State Police.
Greene said federal agencies have been “fantastic in all of this as well.”
Zeybel cited “great cooperation with outside agencies” and said the intelligence provided to ATF was a “year’s worth of worth.” He appreciated that ATF “accepted our work and realized how valuable it was. We moved their case along a year… in one meeting.”
“Agents put their lives at risk and busted their rears,” Greene said. “They should absolutely be commended for eliminating this scourge in Grand Valley.”