Police seize 20 pounds of pot in one of area's biggest busts
Indiana Borough police interrupted what they described as a “significant” cash-for-drugs transaction in Indiana early Monday, arrested an Indiana University of Pennsylvania student and seized marijuana with an estimated street value of $115,000 and more than $18,000 in cash.
Indiana Police Detective Anthony Clement, who is also a case supervisor with the Indiana County Drug Task Force, said Monday’s bust was the largest single seizure of processed marijuana for any of the local officers involved in Monday’s interdiction.
[PHOTO: Scott Schuller, a detective with Indiana Borough Police Department, stood with an estimated 20 pounds of marijuana and $16,580 in cash that was confiscated Monday from a home in Indiana. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette photo)]
Police said Aaron Gmuca, 24, of Windber, a senior at IUP, was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver the 20 pounds of marijuana and with possession of drug paraphernalia. Gmuca was arraigned before Magisterial Court Judge Guy Haberl in Indiana and placed in the Indiana County Jail with bail set at $100,000 pending a preliminary hearing.
Police said Patrol Officer Thomas Dessell stopped a vehicle in the 300 block of North Fourth Street at 3 a.m. Monday because it had a cracked windshield and faulty lights. During the traffic stop one of the two occupants appeared nervous and was trying to hide a package under the seat of the vehicle, according to police.
When the occupants were told to get out of the car, Dessell spotted a large wad of currency sticking out of the rear pants pocket of one occupant.
Further investigation yielded a vacuum-sealed bag in the car containing $15,000 in cash.
Police said more investigation indicated the occupants of the vehicle — who cooperated with police and have not been charged — had just delivered a package to 477 Oak St. and received the money in exchange for the package. They were on their way to New Jersey with the money when they were stopped, police said.
A search warrant executed on the vehicle resulted in a total seizure of $16,680 in currency.
Based on the information they had received, officers also served a search warrant on 477 Oak St. at 11 a.m. Monday and seized an additional $1,500 in cash and a 2007 BMW automobile suspected of containing a large amount of marijuana.
A subsequent search warrant executed on the BMW allowed officers to find and seize 20 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana, each weighing about one pound.
A fourth search warrant was executed on a vehicle seen leaving 477 Oak St. just minutes before the house search and about one-half pound of marijuana was seized from that vehicle.
A criminal complaint filed at Haberl’s office identifies Gmuca as a resident of 477 Oak St. and the BMW as being registered in his name.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators also found a small scale, vacuum seal wrap, a vacuum sealing machine and $741 in cash in Gmuca’s bedroom in the residence at 477 Oak St.
Clement said Indiana police expect to charge more suspects and involve other law enforcement agencies as the investigation continues.
Clement said undercover officers working in Indiana in the past have purchased marijuana for as much as $350 an ounce. At that rate, the pot seized Monday could have been sold on the street for as much as $115,000, he said.