HONESDALE - The leader of a large-scale cocaine ring that had operated out of a Wayne County golf course was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison on Thursday.
Catherine Gabriel, 48, of Scott Township, Lackawanna County, was sentenced on felony counts of running a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility.
Gabriel, who also must pay a $25,000 fine, pleaded guilty to the charges in May and will be given credit for 196 days in jail.
Gabriel was responsible for trafficking approximately 15,000 grams of cocaine - with an estimated street value of more than $1.4 million - into Pennsylvania from the Bronx, court papers say.
The main base of the operation was Red Maples Golf Course in South Canaan Township.
The defendant was the last of nearly 20 people to be sentenced in the case, dubbed "Operation Penalty Stroke."
Deputy Attorney General Timothy Doherty said he was satisfied with the resolution of the case and expressed thanks to District Attorney Janine Edwards for her help and that of her staff.
Doherty noted that Gabriel made well over $100,000 in the dealings.
Gabriel's lawyer, Patrick M. Rogan, said "all things considered" he thinks the sentence was fair.
The defendant told the court she was very sorry for her wrongdoing and she accepts responsibility.
"It was a tremendously bad decision I made. I did wrong and I have to pay the price for that," Gabriel told President Judge Raymond Hamill.
Gabriel said she wants to help younger female inmates so they don't end up in her position.
"I don't want to see them before you when they're my age," she told the judge.
Gabriel also said she was cooperated with authorities from the start.
"I may be a criminal, sir, but I was never not honest from the gate. I made a bad choice, sir," said a tearful defendant.
Rogan said the state had told Gabriel after her arrest that if she cooperated to its "satisfaction" some charges could be dismissed.
Apparently she didn't cooperate to the government's satisfaction, said Rogan, who was not representing Gabriel at the time of her arrest.
Rogan said his client is a college graduate who, prior to dealing drugs, had lost a job that had paid her $105,000 per year.
"It could have been nothing but a crushing disappointment," the lawyer said in court.
Hamill said Gabriel used cocaine and made money from the operation, unlike her co-conspirator, Angelo Pozza.
Pozza, 78, of Waymart, was sentenced earlier this month to 31 to 120 months in state prison.
The judge did note that the defendant has taken advantage of almost every program offered at the county prison.
As the investigation unfolded, court-authorized wire taps were approved in February 2012, which revealed the scope of the organization and its suppliers.
During the investigation, narcotics agents made 14 controlled purchases from Pozza at Red Maples, court papers state.
A grand jury found Pozza had used the golf course as the primary base of operations for the cocaine trafficking operation, selling a minimum of $300,000 worth of the cocaine, which he obtained from Gabriel.
Agents said Pozza and Gabriel had regular customers throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, who would purchase cocaine for either personal use or redistribution.
Other court cases from Thursday will be reported on in a future issue.