Last updated: January 08. 2014 9:55AM - 12034 Views
By - smocarsky@timesleader.com

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BUTLER TWP. — Police removed a 92-year-old woman from an alleged drug house on Tuesday because of deplorable conditions there, including a lack of heat and water.

Township police and the state Office of the Attorney General Drug Task Force served a search warrant at 417 S. Hunter Highway (state Route 309) near the intersection with Old Turnpike Road on Tuesday afternoon after a months-long narcotics investigation.

Police began an investigation in August when patrol officers observed frequent visitors to the residence for short periods of time and other indicators of drug trafficking. As the case developed, citizen complaints were also called in to police, police said.

Police noted that during a recent snowstorm, vehicles of drug customers visiting the residence were double-parked along the highway.

Police charged Ryan C. Stemko, 25, of that address, with drug offenses related to the investigation. Police said Stemko sold synthetic marijuana and heroin to undercover officers on three occasions from the residence.

Police seized scales, needles, drug paraphernalia and heroin from the residence when the search warrant was served at about 2 p.m. Tuesday. They also found there was no functioning heat or water.

A township code enforcement officer was called to the scene and condemned the home due to multiple violations, police said.

The elderly woman was transported to a local hospital by Valley Regional EMS. Police worked with the Luzerne County Bureau of Aging to have her removed from the residence “because of the deplorable living conditions and lack of heat and water,” police said.

At least two other occupants of the residence were forced out as well until repairs can be made, police said.

Stemko was charged with four counts of delivery of a controlled substance, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of criminal use of a communications facility. He was arraigned before District Judge James Dixon and jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $75,000 bail.

Township police said the Hazleton City Police Narcotics Unit assisted in the investigation.

Police also noted that they raided the adjoining side of the home last June after a narcotics investigation involving a different alleged drug trafficker.

The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are expected, police said.

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