More meth and more arrests.
As part of an ongoing offensive against methamphetamine trafficking in Luzerne County, drug agents rounded up and charged 25 suspects on Wednesday in a sweeping bust that dismantled 16 meth labs in recent months.
Among the targets of "Operation Explosive Impact" was Luzerne County Deputy Sheriff Tara Rushnock, 32, of Hanover Township, snared for alleged meth possession.
"We definitely don't like to see members of law enforcement involved in this. But she was, and she was dealt with accordingly," said John Soprano, regional director of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, which spearheaded the drug bust.
Rushnock, a 10-year employee, was arrested Wednesday morning by drug agents as she arrived at work at the sheriff's office, Luzerne County Sheriff John Gilligan confirmed.
Gilligan said Rushnock was immediately suspended without pay from her $29,350-per-year position.
"It's a black eye for the whole department," Gilligan said. "If you have any respect for the badge, you don't get involved in stuff like that."
Charged with a misdemeanor count of methamphetamine possession, Rushnock was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke. She was released on her own recognizance.
Whittaker spent most of Wednesday arraigning the 25 suspects who were paraded into his courtroom in waves by area police officers. Many of the suspects face more serious charges, including manufacturing meth and participating in a corrupt organization.
The attorney general's office said the meth probe focused on a series of separate organizations that acted independently "to produce and provide enough methamphetamine for individuals within their networks."
Authorities said Rushnock was associated with a network that operated two meth labs at 902 Winding Road in Jonestown, Columbia County.
"She was involved with some individuals who were involved with the cooks. She was charged with possession, she was using and she was aware of some of the things going on," Soprano said.
In the past four months, authorities dismantled 16 meth labs located in Beach Haven, Edwardsville, Hollenback Township, Nanticoke, Nescopeck Township, White Haven and Wilkes-Barre, in addition to the one in Columbia County, officials said.
While rounding up suspects Wednesday, authorities discovered two more meth labs in Newport Township. Authorities uncovered a mobile meth lab in a vehicle of a suspect who was pulled over on Robert Street in the Sheatown section near an elementary school. They also discovered a lab at 51 E. Enterprise St. in the Glen Lyon section.
Soprano pledged his office will continue to fight the ever-growing meth problem in the area and vowed more arrests are pending.
"It seems to have become more prevalent over the past few months. We're seeing more and more of it. We're keeping up with it the best we can," Soprano said. "A big part of it is the demand. The customer base is here and they're making it."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service