Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before raid, Kingston neighbors suspected trouble

Rental property on Rutter Avenue has been cleaned, condemnation lifted.

April 18. 2013 11:46PM

By - - (570) 991-6116

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KINGSTON — All has been quiet at a Rutter Avenue apartment since last week’s arrest of two men charged with selling crack cocaine and marijuana from the residence, neighbors said.

Neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity said they have complained about “stop-and-go” traffic at the apartment at 551 Rutter Ave. since February. Five pages of license plate numbers were given to authorities in the weeks leading up to the April 11 raid by state police at Wyoming, state police Bureau of Emergency and Special Operations and Kingston police.

Armed drug troopers and detectives raided the apartment and charged James Rish Featherstone, 33, and Jeremy Norber Valcarcel, 21, on drug offenses. Police also found two infants, a 15-year-old and four women inside.

The apartment was condemned by the Kingston Code Enforcement Office the day of the raid.

Luzerne County property records list Wagiha Taylor of Kingston as owner of the apartment. Taylor did not return a message for comment on Wednesday.

“I was called over to the property the day of the raid and saw a real mess,” said Kingston Code Enforcement Officer Joe Marut. “There was rubbish, garbage, dog feces in the backyard, garbage on the back porch, so I had to condemned the property.”

Marut reinspected the property on Saturday after Taylor had it cleaned, he said.

“There was no reason to keep the property condemned and that was the end of it,” Marut said.

Featherstone and Valcarcel are members of a street gang, state police said. A law enforcement source said Wednesday that the two men are linked to the Sex, Money, Murder sect of the Bloods street gang, the same gang sect that was targeted in October 2010 by the state Office of Attorney General for its alleged $15 million heroin trafficking ring from New Jersey to Wilkes-Barre.

Arrest papers state authorities recovered a bullet-proof vest, crack cocaine, a small amount of marijuana, a razor blade, an ink stamper commonly used to stamp heroin packets and money. In an adjoining room, the papers state, were a box of .45-caliber ammunition and documents that listed Featherstone as being the renter of the residence.

A loaded .45-caliber handgun was found inside a window seat on the first floor of the apartment, according to arrest papers.

Featherstone is not permitted to own or carry a gun due to a previous drug conviction, state police said. Court records list Featherstone’s previous run-ins with the law as follows:

* Wilkes-Barre police charged him on May 15, 2012 with possessing a small amount of marijuana, prescription tablets and ecstasy at his then residence on Irving Place. Under a negotiated deal, he pleaded guilty to possession of a small amount of marijuana and was sentenced on Feb. 22 to time served in jail. A charge of possession of a controlled substance was withdrawn.

* Drug charges filed by state police against Featherstone remain open in Luzerne County Court. He allegedly sold crack cocaine from an apartment on South River Street, Wilkes-Barre, on Jan. 29, 2009, and Feb. 19, 2009. Featherstone is trying to have this case dismissed based on the state’s speedy trial rule.

* A county jury on March 28, 2012, acquitted Featherstone on charges of illegal possession of a firearm, receiving stolen property, firearms not to be carried without a license, terroristic threats, harassment and driving without a license. Plains Township police alleged Featherstone threatened two men with a gun at a motel on May 2, 2011.

* Featherstone pleaded guilty at the district court level on June 23, 2009 to possessing a small amount of marijuana. Hanover Township police said they found a marijuana blunt inside his vehicle during a traffic stop on the Sans Souci Parkway on June 13, 2009.

* He was sentenced on Jan. 10, 2002, to one to two years in jail on a delivery of crack cocaine charge. State police said Featherstone sold the illegal drug inside a Wilkes-Barre apartment in 2001.

Kingston has a landlord registration ordinance that compels landlords who live beyond 20 miles of the municipality to have a property manager for their rental properties, said Kingston Administrator Paul Keating.

Tenants can be evicted if police are called more than three times a month or eight times a year, Keating said.

“It has been effective since we implemented the ordinance a few years ago,” he said. “We probably evicted a dozen or so nuisance tenants within the community.”


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