WAYNE & PIKE COUNTIES — The five month investigation of a fentanyl ring spanning Wayne and Pike Counties resulted in the arrest of seven individuals and a warrant for another affiliated suspect, according to Wayne County District Attorney Patrick Robinson and Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin.
The investigation focused on “...the sales of heroin and fentanyl...” and involved detectives from Wayne and Pike Counties, the Wayne and Pike County Coroner's Offices, the Pennsylvania State Police Vice Unit, the New York State Police and the Pike County Sheriff's Department, states the release.
Of the arrests, Robinson stated, “ I am extremely proud of the cooperative effort put into this investigation and the resulting criminal charges. The Pennsylvania State Police and the PSP Vice Unit did an outstanding job, using the latest technology, to identify these Defendants and charge them appropriately.
“The District Attorney’s Offices in Wayne and Pike County will continue to work together to address these Drug Delivery Resulting in Death cases.
“The drug dealers have no regard for county boundaries and we in law enforcement will work together to relentlessly pursue these dealers in poison regardless of where they are found.”
Tonkin echoed Robinson's statement, adding that “the charges we have filed against this drug ring were only possible because of the dedication of State Police investigators to work tirelessly to put an end to the flow of fentanyl into this area.
“While all played a part in this investigation, the lead investigators were from the State Police Vice Unit.
“We are extremely pleased with the State Police provided the resources to thoroughly investigate these crimes that took the life of these three young adults.”
The arrested individuals are the following, listed with their charges:
• Jessica Phillips, 30, of Lackawaxen. Charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility, and possession of a controlled substance.
• Carley Liguori, 27, of Blooming Grove is charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, two counts of criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
• Diane Phillips, 55, of Lackawaxen, is charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
• Wendy Fuehrer, 53, of Paupack Township, is charged with two counts of drug deliver resulting in death in connection to the death of Kyle Ackerson and Erin Phillips, two counts of conspiracy drug delivery resulting in death, one count delivery of a controlled substance, one count conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and one count criminal use of a communication facility.
• William Phillips III, 28, of Lackawaxen, is charged with six counts of delivery of a controlled substance, one count criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, one count criminal use of a communication facility, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
• Lauren Phillips, 34, of Lackawaxen, is charged with one count of drug delivery resulting in death in relation to the death of Kyle Messinetti, one count of conspiracy drug delivery resulting in death, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, one count conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and one count criminal use of a communication facility.
• Charles Warnott, 35, of Honesdale, is charged with delivery of a controlled substance and one count of criminal conspiracy.
Remaining at large is Francisco Abreu-Pena, 44, with a last known address of the Bronx, New York. He is charged with three counts drug delivery resulting in death in relation to the deaths of Kyle Ackerson, Kyle Messinetti and Erin Phillips. Abreu-Pena is also charged with one county of conspiracy drug delivery resulting in death, four counts of delivery of a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by PSP, investigators used controlled purchases of fentanyl/heroin, search warrants, electronic surveillance and witness interviews to build the case against the drug ring.
“The affidavit indicates a belief of the participants that the fentanyl/heroin was coming from Mexico, and that they travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana to pick it up,” states the release.
The release states the affidavit in support of the criminal charges notes the investigation began in August 2018 with a series of purchases of fentanyl and heroin from William Phillips, III, in Lackawaxen and Blooming Grove Townships.
“During two of the purchases by an informant, Carley Liguori drove William Phillips to the place set to meet for the sale of the fentanyl/heroin.
“One at least one occasion, Liguori brought along her five-year old son.”
According to the affidavit of probable cause, “...investigators made a purchase of fentanyl heroin from Diane Phillips at a residence in Lackawaxen.”
In September 2018, William Phillips was arrested “...after a search warrant found over seven grams of heroin/fentanyl in his possession. Jessica Phillips was also arrested in September on a probation violation.”
Later in September 2018, PSP investigators from Blooming Grove, along with the Pike County Coroner’s Office, responded to a residence in Lackawaxen for a drug overdose.
Officials found “... Kyle Ackerson, age 34, of Lackawaxen deceased.
“An autopsy concluded that Ackerson had fentanyl, a metabolite of cocaine and alcohol in his system,” states the release.
The Pike County Coroner ruled Ackerson’s death as a result of mixed substance toxicity.
Investigators were able to make an undercover purchase of fentanyl from an individual.
From there, investigators obtained new leads on the source of the fentanyl coming into Wayne and Pike Counties.
“They learned that Francisco Abreu-Pena of the Bronx was bringing in quantities of fentanyl from New York City,” the release states.
Investigators were later able to link the drugs used by Ackerson to Abreu-Pena and Wendy Fuehrer.
On October 15, 2018, troopers from the Blooming Grove State Police barracks responded to a residence in Lackawaxen for a possible drug overdose.
When they arrived Kyle Messinetti, age 26, was transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Messinetti was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell ordered an autopsy that determined Messinetti “...died from the pharmacologic effects of fentanyl.”
On November, 7, 2018, PSP Investigators responded to a report of a possible overdose death in Paupack Township, Wayne County at the home of Wendy Fuehrer.
At that residence, investigators discovered Erin Phillips, age 32, the sibling of Jessica, Lauren and William Phillips, III, deceased.
Howell responded and ordered and autopsy that determined Phillips' death “...was ... a result of the pharmacologic effects of fentanyl and cocaine.”
The release states Investigators learned “...Abreu-Pena had been at the home with Erin Phillips and came out of the room where she was found...”
He “... told a witness she was not breathing, and that (he) thought she was dead.
“Abreu-Pena then hurriedly left the residence.”
In December 2018 investigators made a purchase of suspected fentanyl/heroin from Lauren Phillips in Lackawaxen.
Earlier this month, troopers obtained arrest warrants for Jessica Philips, Lauren Phillips, Diane Phillips and William Phillips, III and Carly Liguori.
According to the affidavits, Jessica Phillips told investigators that on September 10, 2018, “...she asked Charles Warnott to obtain fentanyl/heroin form Abreu-Pena in the Bronx and bring it back to her at a residence in Wayne County.”
According to Phillips, “...Warnott obtained 80 grams of fentanyl/heroin and brought it to her that night.
“ Phillips went on to tell investigators that she obtained quantities of fentanyl/heroin on a regular basis from Abreu-Pena to resell in the area,” stated the relase.
Lauren Phillips told investigators the day prior to Messinetti’s death, “...she received a message from him asking if she wanted any 'addies,' which Phillips understood to be Adderall.”
The release states Lauren Phillips “... met with Messinetti and traded him some fentanyl for the Adderall.”
“Phillips told investigators that the fentanyl she traded with Messinetti was fentanyl she had received from Abreu-Pena.”