Sex, drugs, exotic locales and, most of all, money.
It isn't a new prime time drama, just the crumbling remains of a castle made of salt instead of sand.
Last week, Senior Judge William F. Morgan granted a petition for forfeiture of money seized during a Warren County Drug Task Force investigations into a bath salts distribution ring centered around William Edward Housler.
The case centered around $39,956 seized during investigation into Housler.
The ruling came after more than four hours of testimony from investigators and those closest to the man Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan referred to as a "kingpin" of local bath salts.
Witnesses included names familiar from the police blotter. Stephen Gaddy, Sara Tomassoni and Brandy Markham testified to their relationship with Housler. The first-hand accounts lf the three helped establish a picture of Housler as a man involved in late-night, drug-fueled parties and shady, hotel transactions. A man who would spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on a whim, all the while consumed by secrets and paranoia.
Housler is awaiting trial on a number of drug-related charges. He pleaded not guilty in November to two counts of possession with intent to deliver, 16 counts of possession of controlled substance, four counts of prohibited offensive weapons and one count of possession, sale, distribution, manufacture, advertise of electronic device.
Gaddy was the first to take the stand.
He attested to selling bath salts for Housler, whom he met while both were incarcerated in 2008. and picking up money in transactions involving Markham, Mark Hamilton, Dan Bevevino and David Brewer between Oct. of 2011 and July of 2012.
Gaddy testified to being unemployed at the time and making transactions for Housler, "every day", with a typical transaction involving one to two grams of bath salts at a price of $200 per-gram . For making the transactions on Housler's behalf, Gaddy said he was paid between $30 and $40 per-transaction.
Gaddy estimated his transactions on Housler's behalf totalled at least $16,000, with a typical week involving around 100 sales.
Gaddy also recalled an instance in which Housler provided him with $434 to send Western Union to Barcelona, Spain for the purchase of bath salts. Gaddy was instructed to have the drugs shipped to Housler's address. The transaction receipt was later found in a search of Housler's garage.
Gaddy noted he wasn't Housler's only distributor, noting there were, "Six or seven", others.
"I wouldn't say I was the main salesman, I was more of a friend," Gaddy attested. "There were probably one or two who sold more than me."
According to Gaddy, Housler sold out of the garage of his home at 1202 Pennsylvania Ave. West, where he kept a safe holding large amounts of cash.
"More than two or three hundred dollars," Gaddy specified. "Probably a couple thousand."
He also testified to seeing Housler take approximately $5,000 in a single withdrawal from First Niagara Bank while he was with him.
Gaddy noted he had helped Housler install a security system at his property which fed into a DVR system in the garage. He noted the system monitored both the house and the garage.
"One was to protect his family and one was from paranoia," Gaddy said.
"Paranoia from what?," Mckeirnan asked him.
Gaddy further testified to Housler's paranoia saying he was present when, "bath salts, money and a .45 caliber," were buried.
Tomassoni testified next.
Tomassoni attested to having a sexual relationship with Housler and both using and selling drugs with him.
During the period Housler was selling drugs, according to Tomassoni, she often visited his garage, but never went into his house. She noted Housler was married with children at the time, but said she never saw his family.
"We'd just hang out and party (in the garage)," Tomassoni said.
She described herself and Housler as, "the biggest bath salts dealers in Warren."
Tomassoni attested she made online purchases from a website called iOffer, including two purchases on Housler's behalf. She also admitted to making a Western Union money transfer to Cameroon on Housler's behalf.
During the year she testified to making sales for Housler, she estimated she made five to six transactions per day at a profit of approximately $170 per-gram.
Tomassoni also claimed she went to a location near Valentine Run Rd. and dug up drugs Housler had buried at the site while he was incarcerated in 2012 for criminal trespass charges. Tomassoni estimated selling the buried drugs for Housler netted approximately $900 per-day for a week.
Tomassoni also said, "a couple people," were also selling bath salts for Housler while she was involved with him.
Markham was the next to take the stand.
Markham said she has known Housler for approximately 15 years and used bath salts with Housler as well as sometimes selling them for him.
According to Markham, she was dealing bath salts herself at the time and sometimes sold Housler's drugs to her customers.
She attested to using the drugs with Housler in his garage and said she had a romantic relationship with him at the time.
Markham's testimony was marked by minimal answers. She said she was only testifying because she was subpoenaed and required to by law.
Markham served more than eight months for bath salts-related charges, but is now out and has no pending charges against her. Tomassoni and Gaddy are both currently incarcerated in the Warren County Jail for charges of theft of prescription drugs and possession of a controlled substance, respectively. Gaddy has no further charges pending while Tomassoni entered a plea of not guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy (theft by unlawful taking), forgery, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, violation of the controlled substance, drug device and cosmetics act and possession of a controlled substance earlier this month.
Housler's wife, Jamie, then testified.
She said she and Housler lived at 1202 Pennsylvania Ave. West with her three daughters, the youngest two Housler fathered.
She attested Housler had been out of work since 2003 due to a back injury, while she worked at Wal-Mart until recently. Housler's only income, she said, came from a workman's compensation settlement in Aug. of 2010. A sum of, according to her, "150-some thousand".
Settlement papers list a $195,000 settlement, approximately $156,000 of which Housler received after legal fees.
According to her, while the Houslers had a joint account at Wacopse Federal Credit Union, the settlement money was kept in a separate account accessible only to Housler at Wacopse.
"We bought a house. We paid off some vehicles," she said of the settlement. "We had some left over."
She attested Housler gave her money from the garage, claiming it was settlement money. Housler told her he was taking the funds out of the bank a little at a time.
"He didn't want it in the bank," she said.
Prior to his incarceration, she said Housler gave her an indeterminate amount of money which she claimed she put in a closet and never counted or used.
Timothy Hepinger and Rachel Canfield, both investigators with the Warren County Drug Task Force, testified after Jamie Housler.
Hepinger and Canfield were involved in a search of Housler's property in August and subsequent investigation following a probation department check of the residence which turned up drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Hepinger attested he found a liquid wrench can in the garage with a false bottom which was filled with drugs, $99 in one dollar bills, four western union receipts including one in Gaddy's name and another in Tomassoni's, $780 cash hidden in a wall, a First Niagara checkbook and approximately $140 additional dollars in the garage safe.
Hepinger also noted Housler's security system.
"It's indicative of someone who is dealing drugs," Hepinger noted. "It was an elaborate system... a smaller version of what is used at the jail... Low level drug dealers generally don't have that stuff."
Canfield attested she went to First Niagara after the checkbook and a safe deposit box key were found. According to her, Housler's safe deposit box contained 26 sealed bundles of cash totaling $38,770. Canfield said the 20 of the bundles were in plastic grocery bags and the money was packaged in bundles with electrical tape, zip ties, rubber bands and hair ties rather than in bank issue paper money slips denoting the amounts of the bundle.
Canfield said she spoke to Housler's wife about large sums of cash and was told she had misgivings about keeping a box of cash in the house.
After a short recess, drug task force co-ordinator sheriff Ken Klakamp testified.
Klakamp said the August search of Housler's garage turned up small baggies with a Batman symbol on them, "consistent with what the drug task force has bought on the street," as well as spoons, drug paraphernalia and various types of drugs.
"If you take everything into consideration... and you put everything together... there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Housler was dealing bath salts," Klakamp said.
Klakamp noted the task force had been surveilling Housler and his property for some time after conversations with Dan Bevevino, "focused me in the direction of Mr. Housler."
Klakamp said Housler's wife claimed she was unaware of the First Niagara deposit box.
"Is that an unusual way to package money," McKeirnan asked of finding the money packaged in bundles held with various random items.
"Absolutely," Klakamp replied.
Klakamp said the investigation led him to obtain bank records Housler's accounts from Wacopse and First Niagara.
In Aug. of 2010, records indicate $156,000 was deposited into Housler's Wacopse account. This coincides with the date of Housler's compensation settlement.
In that same month $11,800 was withdrawn for payment on a vehicle. In Oct., another $66,097 was was withdrawn, coinciding with Housler's purchase of the property on Pennsylvania Avenue. In May of 2011, the Wacopse account showed a balance of only $32.22, a few months before Gaddy and Tomassoni said they began selling drugs with Housler.
Also in May of 2011, records begin to show overdrafts from the Houslers' joint account.
"To me, the significance is that, that is the time that Mr. Housler's settlement was depleted," Klakamp said. "If this money was sitting around the house, as has been attested to, then why didn't they put it in the bank so they didn't get overdraft fees."
The First Niagara deposit box was not obtained until March of 2012.
Housler's himself took the stand as final witness.
Housler attested he took money from the Wacopse account a little at a time and transferred it to his garage safe.
"I just didn't trust banks," Housler said. "At one time, I took it and put it in First Niagara."
He said he packaged the money with, "whatever I could find," leading to the strange way the bills were bundled.
"I didn't know it was a supposed to be a law how you packaged it," Housler said.
As explanation for the gap between the Wacopse and First Niagara accounts, Housler blamed the recession.
"The economy was bad," Housler said. "I thought the economy was getting better, so I put the money in another bank."
Housler admitted he put the money into a safe deposit box and not into an interest bearing account at First Niagara.
Housler admitted to using bath salts with Gaddy, Tomassoni and Markham, but denied ever selling drugs.
"The court has to rule on the totality of the circumstances," Morgan said prior to his ruling. "At first glance it looks like, 'Oh yes. We have this deposit of $156,000,'... If that money had been in an account that seemed reasonable and not in the circumstances it was, that would go in the defendant's favor. But then we have the depletion and these regular withdrawals.
"Gaddy and Tomassoni... two admitted drug users... the court found them to be much more credible than his (Housler's) fanciful stories.
"There's a clear nexus here (between money and criminal activity)... so the court is going to grant the petition for forfeiture."
"Bath salts is a blight on this community and Mr. Housler is one of the big dealers," McKeirnan said following the ruling. "This forfeiture will help us continue to fund the drug task force."