By Kaylee Lindenmuth
HAZLETON, Luzerne County - The Hazleton Police Department received nearly $300,000 from the Homeland Security Investigations office in Philadelphia for their assistance in an investigation.
The $295,787.11 check was presented to Chief Jerry Speziale today by Special Agent Marlon V. Miller, in charge of the HSI Philadelphia office, and U.S. Attorney David J. Freed.
According to a media release, an investigation conducted by HSI New York identified a Hazleton man, Joshua Sweet, 26, as a "prolific Darknet vendor who manufactured and distributed substantial quantities of narcotics including cocaine, alprazolam, fentanyl, and marijuana, on the Darknet."
Authorities say he laundered proceeds on the Darknet to conceal his activities from law enforcement. During the year-long investigation, HSI and Hazleton Police seized evidence "including significant quantities of narcotics, equipment to make counterfeit pills, cash, and bitcoin as drug trafficking proceeds."
“The collaboration between us has unleashed the power of us all to accomplish what none can do alone,” said Speziale. “These funds will support future law enforcement endeavors and equipment so the taxpayer don’t shoulder the burden.”
“Homeland Security Investigations is proud to return a significant portion of the money seized in this case to the police department, where it will be put to good use improving the public safety for all citizens in this area," said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "We recognize the key role that our local law enforcement partners play in addressing the significant threat that narcotics pose on our communities. Sadly, the perils of narcotics trafficking do not just affect our big cities, they also having a significant impact on our smaller communities."
Sweet was charged on May 16, 2018, with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
The funds resulted from an investigation by HSI Philadelphia’s Cyber Crime Investigations Task Force (C2iTF), the Hazleton City Police Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Sean Camoni is prosecuting the case.
“While we can and will continue to focus on public safety, effective investigations allow us to also disrupt the business of crime by seizing ill-gotten gains,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed. “This presents the opportunity to share these assets with local partners and communities that have been negatively impacted by criminal activity. Because of the great work of HSI and Hazleton Police Department, the law-abiding citizens of Hazleton will benefit for years to come.”
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