JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — An investigation into a Pennsylvania “street gang” led to charges against 57 people across six states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, Acting United States Attorney Troy Rivetti announced.

The investigation, referred to by officials as “Operation Lake Effect,” began in 2018 as officials started looking into a “violent street gang” operation in western Pennsylvania. Agents with the FBI and Homeland Security said they made more than 50 controlled buys, Rivetti said in a news release.

Through the lengthy investigation, agents were able to track the operation of the gang through the following areas: Indiana, Westmoreland, and Armstrong counties in Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and in Mexico.

Over the past 10 months, investigators said they have seized more than 673 pounds of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, over 400 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 16 pounds each of fentanyl powder and cocaine, over $600,000 in cash, nine vehicles and 47 firearms.

Who was charged?

The 25 residents of Pennsylvania and Ohio named in a four-count indictment returned on Feb. 14:

  • Robert Hurst, 44, of North Royalton, OH;
  • Barry Baker, 44, of Indiana, PA;
  • Michael Brown, 41, of Indiana, PA;
  • Kayda Burek, 23, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Joseph Busch, 43, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Christine Cafazzo, 53, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Ernest Clinton, 40, of Leechburg, PA;
  • Misti Durante, 38, of Indiana, PA;
  • Travis Ezekiel, 34, of Cleveland, OH;
  • Melissa Frain, 34, of Indiana, PA;
  • Frank Gardner, 38, of Indiana, PA;
  • Keith Hurst, 45, of Tarentum, PA;
  • Kasmin James, 38, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Lamar Johnson, 40, of Indiana, PA;
  • Thomas King, Jr., 55, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Torrence Lyde, 33, of Cleveland, OH;
  • Lonnie McCann, 48, of Pittsburgh, PA;
  • Kareem Middlebrook, 41, Creekside, PA;
  • Devan Nicholson, 29, of New Kensington, PA;
  • Milton Paschal, 43, of Arnold, PA;
  • Cathie Payson, 52, of Indiana, PA;
  • Kevin Thomas, 46, of Vandergrift, PA;
  • DeAngelo Ward, 33, of Cleveland, OH;
  • Ashley Weston, 38, of Muncy, PA; and
  • David Williams, 60, of Creekside, PA.

A one-count Superseding indictment, returned on Feb. 14, named:

  • Marcos Monarrez-Mendoza, 53, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Samuel Aguirre, 21, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Marcos Armenta, 22, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Mark Camacho, 24, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Robert Foster, 25, of Buckeye, AZ;
  • Donald Garwood, 40, of Glendale, AZ;
  • Erivan Guerrero, 22, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Bryce Hill, 25, Seattle, WA;
  • Emmanuel Lopez, 27, of Glendale, AZ;
  • Cesar Monarrez, 25, of Maricopa, AZ;
  • Marcos Monarrez, Jr., 23, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Jairo Morales, 21, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Stephanie Ortiz, 24, of Avondale, AZ;
  • Valerie Sanchez, 35, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Heaven West, 21, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Carlos Zamora, 27, of Peoria, AZ;
  • Humberto Arredondo-Soto, 23, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Colby Barrow, 29, of Peoria, AZ;
  • Luis Chavez-Ortega, 26, of Glendale, AZ;
  • Donnell Collins, 27, of Cleveland, OH;
  • Mohamed Kariye, 34, of Kent, WA;
  • Jesus Lopez, 21, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Diego Monarrez, 21, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Avante Nix, 20, of Saint Paul, MN;
  • Alicia Parks, 24, of Kent, WA;
  • James Pinkston, 32, of Pittsburgh, PA;
  • Jesus Ramirez, 25, of Phoenix, AZ;
  • Sahal Sahal, 36, of SeaTac, WA; and
  • Diamond Williams-Dorsey, 29, of Cleveland, OH.

“The sheer quantity of narcotics seized and the magnitude of defendants charged in this investigation is staggering,” said Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia William S. Walker. “But even more impactful is how this investigation disrupted nearly every distribution apparatus of a prolific drug trafficking organization peddling addictive opioids and narcotics in communities all over the United States.”