Two Plead Guilty in Operation Return to Sender Meth Case

Two Clearfield County Men Plead Guilty in Operation Return to Sender Meth Case

PITTSBURGH, PA (STL.News) Two residents of Penfield, Pennsylvania each pleaded guilty in federal court to violation federal narcotics laws related to a nine-month Title III wiretap investigation into drug trafficking in and around the counties of Jefferson, Clearfield, and Allegheny, United States Attorney Cindy Chung announced today.

Terry Kelly, age 48, and Jason Whitaker, age 60, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine before United States District Judge Christy Criswell Wiegand.  Kelly and Whitaker were two of 47 defendants charged in six related indictments as part of the Return to Sender investigation.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on April 21, 2021, investigators received information that couriers were transporting a large amount of methamphetamine from Houston, Texas to Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.  Investigators obtained a search warrant and seized over ten kilograms of pure methamphetamine from a truck parked in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn located in Clearfield County.  Investigators determined that the methamphetamine was destined for a residence shared by Kelly and Whitaker.

Judge Wiegand scheduled sentencing for Whitaker on August 25, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. and Kelly on August 25, 2022, at 1:00 p.m.  The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not less than 10 years to a maximum of life in prison, a fine not to exceed $10,000,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the court ordered that both defendants remain out on bond.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan D. Lusty and Michael R. Ball are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Drug Enforcement Administration led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Homeland Security Investigations, United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, United States Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Services, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Police, and Pennsylvania State Police.  Also assisting were the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Clearfield County District Attorney’s Office, and the Clarion Borough Police Department.

This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States.  OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.