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Witnesses speak of heavy drug use at day four of Operation Drive Thru trial
Friday, January 27, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Day four of the Operation Drive Thru trial saw more witnesses speak of their heavy drug use with cocaine purchased from the defendants.
The three defendants are Michael Styers, 55, of Mercer, the alleged ringleader, Charles Gearhart, 41, of Woodland, his second in command, and Maharaji "Bean" Hemingway, 36, of Philadelphia, accused of being their main supplier of cocaine.
Styers allegedly sold cocaine at his South Fifth Street home in Clearfield and Gearhart allegedly sold cocaine out of a window at his trailer on Carr's Hill in Hyde.
Gearhart is charged with 14 counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations; and racketeering activity. He is represented by Gary Knaresboro of Clearfield.
Styers is charged with 14 counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; two counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations; persons not to possess, use manufacture control, sell or transfer firearms; burglary; theft by unlawful taking or disposition; criminal attempt; criminal trespass; and racketeering activity. He is represented by Benjamin Vrobel.
Hemingway is charged with six counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations; racketeering activity; and false imprisonment. He is represented by Lance Marshall.
Rick Wilkinson, co-owner of Wilkinson Subaru in Curwensville, testified he was introduced to cocaine by his now ex-wife, Jodi Wilkinson, and her daughter, Arianne Brocious, in early 2005. At first, he said he would purchase a couple of grams of cocaine from Styers every few weeks or so when Styers lived in the LeContes Mills area. However, soon after Styers moved to a house on South Fifth Street in Clearfield, Wilkinson said his drug use increased considerably.
Wilkinson said he began using cocaine every day, often returning to Styers' residence several times a day to purchase cocaine. Wilkinson said sometimes he would consume as much as 6 grams of cocaine a day.
In Clearfield, Wilkinson said he usually purchased his cocaine from Styers but also purchased it from Gearhart at his trailer in Hyde. He said he went to Styers about 80 percent of the time and Gearhart about 20 percent.
He said both Styers and Gearhart would charge anywhere between $80-$100 per gram for cocaine.
Wilkinson said he often consumed cocaine inside Styers' garage or in his house. Wilkinson said he would see a lot of people at the Styers house using cocaine and there were always people coming and going.
He would also often travel out of town from time to time with Rich Smeal to purchase cocaine in Pittsburgh or New Kensington and went to Philadelphia once to purchase cocaine from Hemingway.
Wilkinson said in about one year, he spent approximately $150,000 supporting his cocaine habit. Wilkinson said his father had left him about $333,000 when he died and said he spent roughly half of his inheritance on his cocaine habit.
He said he stopped using cocaine shortly after being arrested by police on Mann Road in April 2006.
Wilkinson said for some reason it was decided he and Jodi Wilkinson and Charles Gearhart and his wife, Danielle, and their four children were going to stay at a hotel in DuBois.
He said he and Jodi used some cocaine at their home, then went to Bilger's Rocks and consumed more before meeting the Gearharts at the hotel.
He said he, Charles Gearhart and Jodi Wilkinson consumed some cocaine in the hotel but Gearhart then discovered he had left a large amount of cocaine at his home in Hyde and wanted to retrieve it, fearing it would be taken. Danielle Gearhart had also forgotten some of her son's things and wanted to go back as well.
Wilkinson said he never saw Danielle Gearhart use cocaine.
He said the four of them got in his ex-wife's car and drove back to Clearfield. On the way back, he said they got in an argument. He got angry and demanded to be let out of the car, saying he would get his own ride.
He said he was left somewhere on Mann Road and walked to a nearby home to use the phone. He said he knocked on the door and shook the doorknob but a man at the home started yelling at him so he went to a neighbor's house.
He said he walked in the second home and started to use the phone when he was confronted by the homeowner. He told him he had to use the phone and the homeowner said OK.
Wilkinson said he called Styers' wife, Shelia, but she said she didn't have a car to pick him up.
Wilkinson said he then exited the home, but as soon as he walked out the door he said he saw the police had pulled over his wife's car.
He said he walked over to the police, who told him they were looking for someone who was trying to break into some homes. He told them it was probably him, as he was looking for a phone.
Wilkinson said he was still under the influence of drugs at the time and was "skitzing" and was concerned about Jodi Wilkinson and tried to get to her in the car. He said he pushed a couple of the police officers in an attempt to get to her and they cuffed him and put him in the patrol car.
He said he saw police search the car and place some bags of cocaine on the hood of the police car. He was then taken to Clearfield County Jail.
Wilkinson would later learn from Charles Gearhart that police had seized $12,000-$15,000 worth of cocaine in the car and Gearhart was concerned about finding the money to pay for it.
Although Wilkinson said he had lent money to Gearhart in the past to cover drug debts, which Gearhart repaid him with cocaine, Wilkinson said he didn't lend him any money to cover this debt. This was because Wilkinson said he was out more than anyone because the police had seized the car as well and he said the car was worth about $30,000.
Wilkinson said he would spend three months in jail before he could post bail. Wilkinson said he eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to six years in jail. Wilkinson said he has served four years of his sentence and is currently serving at a halfway house, where he is on work release so he can work at the car dealership.
He said shortly after his arrest he got on a drug rehabilitation program and no longer uses cocaine.
Jacob Pittman said he, too, became a heavy cocaine user and started purchasing it from Styers, when Styers was in LeContes Mills and later when he moved to Clearfield.
Pittman also said he purchased cocaine from Gearhart at his trailer in Hyde. Pittman said he had also become addicted to pain medications when receiving treatment for an injury by Dr. Fuentes.
Pittman said he also started purchasing cocaine from Hemingway when he met him at Kristen Wilsoncroft's home.
Pittman said Hemingway also came to Curwensville once to meet him and Tara Osborn (Swatsworth). He said Hemingway gave them some cocaine to sell, but said he became angry because they were consuming too much of it themselves and was afraid they wouldn't get any money for it.
Pittman said he would sell cocaine to support his addiction.
He also said he would go to Pittsburgh or New Kensington with Smeal to purchase cocaine.
After being arrested, Pittman said he got on a drug rehabilitation program and no longer uses cocaine. He said he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two to four years in prison. He said he has since been released and is employed.
Pittman said at first he didn't cooperate with the prosecution but changed his mind when he saw many of the people he was being loyal to were speaking against him and said he wanted to get a better deal.
Cynthia Kifer said she met Styers through her son, Brandon, when Styers helped him move some of his things.
She said she suffers from chronic pain and was addicted to painkillers for 20 years. She said she was under the care of Dr. Larry Adams and began to trade Styers some of her Oxycontin pills for cocaine.
However, soon her insurance would no longer pay for her pain medications and Styers offered to pay for her prescription, but in exchange she would have to give Styers half of the Oxycontin 80 mg pills. Eventually that too stopped because her prescription was switched to Fentanyl patches.
Her daughter, Autumn Kifer, also testified she met Styers through her brother, Brandon. At first Brandon would have to go to Styers' home to purchase cocaine but soon after she said Styers began to trust her enough to purchase it herself.
She said she, too, became addicted to cocaine and began stealing from her employer, the Lithuanian Club in Osceola Mills. She said she took about $8,000-$9,000 from the cash register before she got caught.
She said they fired her but didn't press charges. She said she promised to pay the money back, but never did.
She also said she took Styers shopping at various stores in Clearfield including J.C. Penny, Walmart and Sheetz using her boyfriend's credit card to pay her drug debts.
She said she purchased cocaine both at Styers' residence in Clearfield and at Gearhart's trailer in Hyde.
Autumn Kifer testified in the summer of what she believed was 2006, but said she is bad with dates during those times because of her drug use.
She said she went to Philadelphia with her brother to meet Hemingway but things didn't turn out as well as they thought, as her brother had a large drug debt to him. To help out she agreed to stay with Hemmingway as collateral and he gave her brother some cocaine to sell and he was supposed to come back within 12 hours with the profits and pay off the debt.
However, after three days her brother did not return and her boyfriend, Anthony Manchio, who was a cocaine dealer in the Scranton area with ties to New York drug dealers, came and picked her up.
While in Philadelphia, she said she stayed at various locations she believes were friends or relatives of Hemingway's She said they treated her well, fed her and gave her a little cocaine. She said she didn't see Hemingway that much during this time.
Hemingway's attorney, during cross-examination, tried get her to nail down the year when this happened because if she says it happened in 2007 Hemingway was in prison at the time and it couldn't have occurred. But, Autumn Kifer said she wasn't sure when it happened but believed it happened in 2006.
Following her arrest and imprisonment, Autumn Kifer, too, said she got on a rehab program and no longer uses cocaine. She said what really motivated her to stop is when she got pregnant and now has two children.
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