Operation Avalanche

March 20, 2009

All Posts, News

This week the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation culminated an eight month long surveillance of the American Outlaws Association’s Wilkes-Barre chapter with the arrest of 16 men and three women.

And, with much braying and bragging and posing for pictures and the symbolic crashing of cymbals and blaring of trumpets. Warrants were also issued for three men who turned out to not be where the police thought they were.

First You Name The Operation

Four of the 22 accused are alleged to be members of the Wilkes-Barre Outlaws and so Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett described the arrests as being “in connection with a $3.6 million cocaine distribution ring operated by members and ‘wannabes’ of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.” And, of course, this law enforcement adventure had a self-important name: Operation Avalanche.

Every half-assed military or law enforcement adventure since the first Bush Administration has had a self-important name. These things always sound less blatantly half-assed when they have a grandiose name.

Then You Make The Arrests

The four, actual or alleged, Outlaws charged are Ronald “Block” Molnar, 37, John “J Bone” Ricci, 36, John “G Unit” Gonda, 38 and Joseph “Skidmark” Janick, 44.

All 22 of the accused are charged with single counts each of “corrupt organizations,” “conspiracy to deliver cocaine,” “possession with the intent to deliver cocaine,” “delivery of cocaine” and “criminal use of a communications facility.” Or for those of you who do not speak Philadelphia lawyer, all of these people are accused of possessing cocaine while in motion, belonging to or knowing someone who belongs to an allegedly criminal organization -in this case a motorcycle club-and talking on a cell phone, or emailing someone or text messaging someone. Some of the accused may have also possessed guns and marijuana.

John “G Unit” Gonda is a guard at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, which is what Wilkes-Barre calls its county jail. Gonda is accused of smuggling cocaine and marijuana into the jail in order to sell it to make money.

And of course he must be, most certainly, the only prison guard in America who has ever done this. But, if this corrupt prison guard abomination had to happen somewhere, it isn’t exactly a shock that it happened in Wilkes-Barre.

Wilkes-Barre City of Magic

Since the city of 40,000 lost its coal industry and textile mills decades ago and since the downtown was virtually destroyed in a flood decades ago, the official name of this municipality has been “long depressed Wilkes-Barre.” In other words, Wilkes-Barre is a heartlessly cynical place and working the incarceration-industrial complex is how the most cynical make their money. It is only the merely hopeless who deal recreational drugs.

About a month ago, two juvenile court judges were exposed for who they are. Children were brought before these two bastards for the most minor offenses-getting into a fist fight at school, shoplifting a tube of lipstick, that sort of thing. They were each given one or two minute hearings, without benefit of counsel, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months. Year after year this went on.

The prisons to which these children were sent were privately run and owned by two soulless corporations called PA Child Care LLC and Western PA Child Care LLC. And, it was eventually made public that the two judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, had taken $2.6 million in kick backs from those two corporations to send those children to those prisons. Children! Children!

Just today, a Luzerne County court administrator named William Sharkey pled guilty to embezzlement and was suspended -suspended-from his $97,000 a year job.

Finally You Hold The Press Conference

Yet, this week it is the Commonwealth’s assertion that everything is now hunky dory in northeastern Pennsylvania because the people have now been saved from “a $3.6 million cocaine ring.”

What is broken in America, we are supposed to believe, is that many lost people take drugs to feel less lost. And those drugs are not the good drugs like Zoloft or Ambien that we see advertised constantly on television. They are bad drugs like cocaine or marijuana that do not require a doctor’s prescription to obtain.

This week, the Pennsylvania Attorney General is contending that the Wilkes-Barre chapter of the Outlaws was the nest of spiders in a vast web of depravity that was despoiling the Keystone State. And, now Pennsylvania has been cleansed and saved.

Pennsylvania has been cleansed and saved by a politician attired in a nice, black suit and a pale blue tie. His name is Tom Corbett. (See photo above.) And, because he has saved Pennsylvania Tom Corbett is now entitled to have his picture taken with the trophies he has rent from his vanquished enemies.

As young men in Vietnam once posed for photographs holding strings of ears. As if Tom Corbett, who avoided Vietnam by using his connections to join the National Guard, would have ever been one of those young men.

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2 Responses to “Operation Avalanche”

  1. angelblue Says:

    I like your sarcasm.. very appropriate.
    However the downtown is not as desimated as implied, nor are we all heartless. I worship at a downtown church whose ministry is to help place and council homeless people in our area. Why are they homeless? Some came from NJ of NY and looking for something better. Some prefer to be. We are no more heartless then any other large city with a over whelming amount of homeless and increasingly less money or resources to manage or help.
    As for why the children were being victimized for so may years with out any investigation, many of these kids and their parents were so blind-sided by the system and no money to hire a true lawyer that they got lost. You honestly do not think that any child whose parents had any decent amount of money was treated this way?
    The poor and disenfranchised have always been the targets of those with little or no moral center.

    A update on the Kids for Cash scheme (yes we even name our corruptions )

    Pennsylvania: Builder to Plead
    Published: August 13, 2009

    A Pennsylvania builder will plead guilty in a scheme in which judges allegedly took kickbacks to place juveniles in private detention centers, the authorities said. The builder, Robert K. Mericle, becomes the 11th person charged in a Luzerne County corruption inquiry that has brought down two judges, a schools superintendent, a court administrator and others. Mr. Mericle, 46, of Wilkes Barre, failed to tell a federal grand jury about $2.1 million in payments to the former judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, prosecutors said. As part of his plea, Mr. Mericle has agreed to pay $2.15 million to fund local children’s programs. He faces up to three years in prison and fine of up to $250,000. His company, Mericle Construction Inc., built the centers.


  2. FF Says:

    The nerve of this fuckin’ guy…

    Jailed former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan has written to the in-laws of his co-conspirator, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., demanding they repay nearly $130,000 he says they owe him.

    Incarcerated in a Florida prison, Conahan recently wrote to Gerald and Helen Baer, the parents of Ciavarella’s wife, asking them to make good on a $129,620.93 debt.

    “I’m now making demand in full,” Conahan said in a hand-written note to the Baers which was recently filed in his federal court docket.

    Conahan, jailed for 17½ years for his role in the county’s infamous “Kids-for-Cash” scandal, owes the government $894,167.37 in restitution.

    In his letter, Conahan tells the Baers that he needs the money to “pay the government as part of my court ordered restitution.” He suggests they could send the money directly to the government and then send him proof.

    Accompanying the letter is a “Judgement Note” purportedly signed by the Baers on July 21, 2009, that says they promise to repay Conahan.

    Ciavarella also purportedly signed the document as a witness to the agreement.

    Court records indicate Conahan had loaned $220,000 to Ciavarella and his wife, Cindy, in August 2006 to help her parents purchase a house on Refuge Drive West in Drums. No written repayment agreement was made, though the Baers repaid $90,379.27 in June 2009, the court documents say.

    The Baers could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

    While Cindy Ciavarella walked arm-in-arm with her husband while accompanying him throughout his February 2011 corruption trial, the two had actually separated five months before the testimony began, according to a May 2013 divorce request filing by Cindy Ciavarella in Centre County.

    It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday if the divorce has been finalized. An employee for the Centre County Prothonotary’s Office on Wednesday said she was unable to provide information about the case and civil court filings are not searchable online in that county.

    The “Judgement Note” signed by the Baers and Conahan was signed 10 days before a federal judge rejected the initial plea agreement Conahan and Ciavarella reached with federal prosecutors that called for them to serve 87 months in federal prison.

    Ciavarella and Conahan were charged in January 2009 with pocketing $2.8 million from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit juvenile detention centers after conspiring to shutter a county-run juvenile detention center.

    After a judge rejected their initial plea, Conahan reached another plea deal and was sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison. He is jailed at Federal Correctional Institution Coleman – Low, a low security prison in Sumter County, Florida.

    Ciavarella opted to go to trial and was convicted on 12 of 39 counts, including racketeering and conspiracy. He was later sentenced to 28 years in prison.

    Ciavarella had been jailed at Federal Correctional Institution at Pekin, a medium security facility in Tazewell County, Illinois. He was recently transferred twice and currently is located at Federal Detention Center Atlanta, a prison that primarily houses inmates awaiting transfer to a permanent facility.


    The State Employees Retirement System sought repayment of more than $21,000 in pension benefits paid to Conahan prior to his guilty plea.[3] Conahan withdrew his bid to collect pension benefits, which he challenged in April 2010. He did not offer a reason for the withdrawal.[4]

    Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik rejected their plea deals and issued a ruling declaring that they had failed to accept responsibility for their actions. Ciavarella faced trial on Monday, February 7, 2011. Conahan pleaded guilty to a single federal racketeering charge.[5][6]


    Both originally agreed to spend seven years in prison, but then Ciavarella talked exclusively with Newswatch 16.

    “I loved the juvenile court, I loved helping those kids. I would never do anything to hurt a child, that’s just not what I do. That’s not me. I was always there for those kids. I resent the fact that people think I did something improper. I didn’t do anything improper when it came to the care of those kids,” said Ciavarella in July of 2009.

    Days after that interview, a federal judge rejected the guilty pleas of Ciavarella and Conahan, saying their behavior didn’t really accept guilt.


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