Task Force Leads the Way—Six More Drug Houses Shut Down

  • Task Force Leads the Way—Six More Drug Houses Shut Down

    Task Force Leads the Way—Six More Drug Houses Shut Down

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of six more cases under the city’s “Drug House Ordinance” for the rental properties at:  414 N. High Street, 427 Porter Avenue, 315    S. Kentucky Avenue, 316 E. Liberty Street, 612 N. Queen Street, and 314 N. Maple Avenue.  Three of latest drug house cases were the result of a long-term criminal investigation led the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, one stemmed from an MPD prostitution enforcement mission, one resulted from a search warrant conducted by the West Virginia State Police, and the sixth came from an MPD Canine Unit drug investigation. Chief Maury Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner and obtained Orders of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity at all six properties.

    The owners of the rental properties have been identified as:  Barry Schenberg/Potomac Housing for 414 N. High Street, Steve Barnes/Capital Development for 427 Porter Avenue and 314 N. Maple Avenue, Donald Evans for 315 S. Kentucky Avenue, and Mickey Duncan for 316 E Liberty Street and 612 N. Queen Street.  The latest drug house violations are the fourth and fifth for Mr. Duncan.

    The successful Task Force operation targeted out-of-state drug dealers who were attempting to set up an illegal drug business using multiple locations in Martinsburg which included the High Street, Porter Avenue, and Liberty Street rental properties.  Task Force officers obtained search warrants for the three locations and were assisted by MPD officers in executing the warrants on June 20th.  Arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine were Rodney Enoch, 44; Marcellus Segar, 24; and Andrea Brock, 22.  An arrest warrant has also been issued for Jahkheimi Wheeler, 30 who had been identified as part of the drug conspiracy.  After gathering information during an MPD prostitution enforcement mission, Task Force officers assisted MPD in conducting a search warrant at 315 S. Kentucky Avenue, Apartment 2 on June 12th.   Officers recovered 1.6 grams of heroin, 5.8 grams of crack cocaine, .5 grams of methamphetamine, and digital scales.  An arrest warrant has been issued for the tenant, Angela Gregory, 44, for Possession with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine.

    “The Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force is second to none and extremely effective on every level—national, regional, and local,” stated Chief Richards.  “Our Task Force is a vital  asset and close partner with MPD in shutting down drug houses, locking up criminals, and making Martinsburg a safer and better place to live.  I want to thank all our Task Force members and supervisors for their great work and United States Attorney Bill Powell for his excellent leadership and direction.  We’re making a real difference in Martinsburg and across the Eastern Panhandle,” Richards added.

    The Drug House case at 314 N. Maple Avenue started with a drug investigation by MPD’s Canine Unit Officer, Patrolman Ryan Fritz.  Fritz had learned that the tenant of the property was in the process of trafficking a large quantity of marijuana from the West Coast for illegal sale and distribution in Martinsburg.  Over the course of several days, Patrolman Fritz conducted an in-depth investigation gathering information from several sources, including social media.  On June 24th, Fritz obtained a search warrant for the residence and made entry with the assistance of fellow MPD officers.  During the search, the officers recovered 649.5 grams of marijuana, 442 grams of marijuana wax, 2 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, $487 in drug-money, and several illegal firearms.  The Estimated Street Value of the drugs totaled $26,117.  The tenant, Joshua Ray Lowe, 38 was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Transportation of Controlled Substances.

    On July 1st, MPD Corporal Marc Loretta, Patrolman Bill Staub, and Patrolman Paul Lehman assisted West Virginia State Police Trooper Bryant Snapp in conducting a search warrant for illegal drugs at 612 N. Queen Street.  After gaining entry, the officers recovered two bags of marijuana, a digital scale used for drug distribution, and three illegally possessed firearms.  Trooper Snapp arrested the tenant, Lauren Porter, 30, who was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Possession of Firearms by a Prohibited Person.  Officers Loretta, Staub, and Lehman immediately documented the arrest information and provided it to Chief Richards who initiated the Drug House enforcement action.

    “The great team effort between our Task Force, MPD, and the West Virginia State Police resulting in shutting down six more drug houses can only be described as outstanding,” said Deputy Chief George Swartwood.  “We are continuing to make our community a better place, one block at a time,” he added.

    The owners of the six properties have already moved forward to evict the problem tenants and are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on August 28, 2019 to provide evidence that they have complied with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on their property.

    As part of the Martinsburg Police Department’s community-policing strategy, the Drug House Ordinance is a powerful drug-fighting tool.  Since its adoption in 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 53 drug houses.  Repeat calls-for-service at these locations have been reduced by 90%.