By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Three men were indicted in federal court Thursday on charges they used houses in Shamokin and Mount Carmel to store drugs and proceeds from transactions.
Renard Durant, Shelton Cochrane II and Gilberto Lanzot Jr. are ranking members of a Bloods chapter called almighty renegade gangstas, according to charges filed in U.S. Middle District Court.
In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced an eight-count indictment against Durant, of Bloomsburg, and Jeffrey Tripp, of Kulpmont.
The indictment charges Durant, who officials allege held leadership positions in the “worldwide” Bloods gang in the Bronx and Pennsylvania before establishing the ARG chapter.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel is seeking permission to introduce that information at Durant’s trial. The defense opposes the request, published reports said.
The allegations about the Bloods are based on records seized during the execution of search warrants June 19 at a Bloomsburg house where Durant was living.
Northumberland County may be one of the big target areas for drug sales by the Bloods chapter, court documents say.
And county and state officials agree that drug sales in the county are not slowing down.
“We are aware of gangs and drugs in this area,” Milton state trooper Matt Burrows said. “We are in tune with it, and we see both big-time players and small-time players. But we are aware, and we are on the watch always.”
U.S. Middle District Court documents allege the Cochrane and Lanzot are ranking members of that Bloods chapter.
Authorities allege Tripp, Cochrane and Lanzot distributed heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana in Northumberland, Columbia and Luzerne counties that was obtained from New York and Hazleton and was supplied by Durant and others.
Tripp, who pleaded guilty in December to a conspiracy charge and is cooperating with authorities, is alleged to have been “beaten in” as an almighty renegade gangstas member during a July 2011 “pow wow” at the Mount Carmel residence.
Besides gangs, drugs are a huge problem, Burrows said. “It has been and is a big problem,” he said. “We are out fighting it every day.”
Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo agreed.
“Gangs and drugs are around this county,” he said. “We watch for every and any sign of any kind of gang activity, and we try to stop it immediately.”
Noel Jones, an adult and juvenile probation officer with Northumberland County, has followed gang and drug activity for several years and said defeating gangs is “tough.”
“There are gangs around here, and we have been talking about this for years. This is no surprise, it is old news,” he said. “They aren’t here to start fights or start wars. They are here for the sale.”
Jones said drugs are the biggest reason gang activity is taking place in Northumberland County.
“They come here, and they hide very well,” he said. “They are here to sell and to make money.”
Jones said at one time the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township housed the second largest inmate population of Bloods in Pennsylvania.
“They are around,” he said. “It’s identifying them that gives us a hard time now.”
Stopping the problem is something Jones said starts with everyone.
“We need the public eye on things being out of place,” he said. “The signs are traffic in and out of rental properties, vehicles with out-of-state plates and anything that just looks out of the ordinary.”