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State-level convictions netted after heroin ring bust

August 25, 2018

HUNTINGTON — As several defendants pleaded in federal court this week for their involvement in the Peterson Drug Trade Operation, the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office netted its first convictions in the case in state court.

More than 30 defendants in state and federal court were connected to the Peterson drug trade operation, a Detroit-to-Huntington “drug pipeline” in operation for 15 years, led by Manget and allegedly Willie Peterson.

In Cabell County Circuit Court on Thursday Chelsi Early 31, of Canton, Ohio, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy and was fined $250 plus court costs, which amounted to more than $400. As part of her plea, she also agreed to speak with federal authorities about her involvement in the case.

In her plea, Early said she had conspired to possess cocaine with another individual.

Assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham said she had conspired to buy the drug from a member of the Peterson DTO.

“Ms. Early and several other individuals were part of that conspiracy,” he said. “Ms. Early’s involvement was that she and other individuals would purchase drugs from known drug dealers that were part of the organization and would occasionally distribute them out in lower amounts to other people.”

Prior to that, Sandra Juanita Pinson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and was fined $500. Justin Carter entered a deferred adjudication plea to conspiracy to commit a felony. If he completes a two-year period without any issues, he will be allowed to plea to a misdemeanor.

They are two of 15 charged in the state’s cases against the Peterson DTO. An additional 15 people are charged in federal court, and eight of those defendants have pleaded guilty.

Cabell County Prosecutor Sean “Corky” Hammers previously had said the state’s case surrounded low-level offenders who are believed to have been dealing drugs as a way to pay for drug-dependency issues. Those indicted in federal court were transporting the drugs and helping run the operation.

Many of the defendants were arrested April 17 as 200 federal, state and local officers raided more than a dozen locations throughout Huntington, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. They were several of more than 90 individuals targeted as part of Project Huntington, an initiative announced by federal authorities in March in response to the growing opioid epidemic and an uptick of violent crime.

Defense attorney Jason Goad represented Early in her case.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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