CLEARFIELD — An Ohio man accused of supplying large quantities of drugs for distribution in Clearfield County was found guilty of all charges after a three-day trial on Wednesday.
A jury has determined there is enough evidence to convict James Thomas, 52, of Akron, Ohio, of 11 counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and one count each of conspiracy criminal/possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, corrupt criminal organizations, criminal conspiracy/corrupt organizations and criminal use of means of communication, all crimes.
Thomas was first the source for Houtzdale’s Don Mullens until his death from a drug overdose in May 2018, then his girlfriend, Sondra McQuillen, 56, according to grand jury and court testimony. trial.
At a press conference in January 2019, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the street value of the drugs in that case, which included methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs, was estimated at $1.5 million. of dollars.
When testifying in his own defense on Wednesday, Thomas said Mullens was a friend and claimed he was doing him a favor by supplying him with drugs for his girlfriend. Mullens could not use drugs as he was on parole at the time.
He said he only sold her drugs and then McQuillen after Mullens died. “I was doing it as a favor more than anything,” Thomas said.
He also claimed that the drugs found in his home had been left there in a bag, Mullens asked him to keep it safe.
In his closing arguments, Joe Ryan of Reynoldsville, attorney for Thomas, said Thomas didn’t know McQuillen was “turning around and selling him out.”
He also noted that Thomas was not on local law enforcement’s radar for dealing drugs.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Madeira, who along with Senior Deputy David Gorman was prosecuting the case, pointed in his conclusion to cellphone evidence as to how brief multiple trips to Ohio and text messages between Thomas and McQuillen when she was getting closer to her location.
Referring to Thomas selling to McQuillen after Mullens died, Madeira asked “does that sound like a friend or a businessman?”
The investigation into this drug ring began in September 2017, after several controlled purchases of methamphetamine from a Clearfield couple, Jason Lynn, 40, and Joyce Lee Merritts, 36, according to grand jury testimony.
During the trial, testimony revealed that Mullens and/or McQuillen traveled to Ohio approximately 26 times in 2018.
On July 26, 2018, law enforcement officers tracked McQuillen and another individual to Akron where she met Thomas. She purchased methamphetamine and other drugs for $3,800, according to the report.
She was tracked to Clearfield County where investigators executed a search warrant on her vehicle.
Officers reportedly found a third of a pound of methamphetamine, crack, marijuana and pills suspected to be prescription drugs in the vehicle.
Search warrants were also executed at Thomas’ residence on the same day. He discovered four ounces of meth, almost 200 grams of cocaine/crack and marijuana.
At the barbershop where he worked, police found two pounds of methamphetamine, more than four ounces of cocaine and nearly three pounds of marijuana, according to earlier reports.
The grand jury heard that Thomas admitted to meeting McQuillen the day she was arrested by police, through phone calls from jail. He further admitted that he should have stopped “doing things” with McQuillen after Mullens’ death.
In February 2019, Jason Merritts pleaded guilty to selling methamphetamine from this source at their Lawrence Township apartment.
On felony charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, criminal conspiracy, criminal use of means of communication, endangering the welfare of children and corrupt organizations, Judge Paul Cherry sentenced to 3½ to seven years in state prison with an additional 10 years of probation.
In July 2019, 36-year-old Joyce Merritts was placed in the state’s Intermediate Sanctions Program for similar drug offenses.
McQuillen, who testified at Thomas’s trial, is expected to be sentenced next week.
Thomas will be sentenced within 60 days. He is already serving a federal sentence for drug and firearms charges totaling 15 years, according to trial testimony.