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.