2024 Nanticoke PD News
Nanticoke man charged with running marijuana growing operation
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
A Nanticoke man was arraigned Thursday on charges alleging he ran a marijuana-growing operation cultivating over 80 plants in the upstairs bedroom of a Plymouth Twp. home.
Travis Ryan O'Leary, 35, is facing 89 charges related to the growing operation state police say they discovered at 107 W. Poplar St. in the spring of 2022.
According to the complaint, troopers went to the home at the request of O'Leary's ex-girlfriend, Melissa Blythe, who previously had protection-from-abuse orders against him and believed he had locked her out of the residence.
When troopers went to what they thought was an upstairs bedroom they were hit by the smell of marijuana and encountered a growing operation featuring water lines, lights, tarped enclosures with reflective panels and soil, according to the charges.
The operation was located in a room near the bedroom of O'Leary's son, who was also present in the home, police said.
Blythe admitted she was aware of the operation but maintained O'Leary was solely responsible for it, troopers said.
O'Leary, who has a degree from the Pennsylvania College of Technology, was previously employed at a legal medical marijuana growing operation in Lackawanna County, according to the complaint.
Investigators seized 86 marijuana plants, five Ball jars and a clear plastic bag from the room, police said.
Troopers charged O'Leary with one felony count each of drug trafficking and endangering the welfare of a child, 86 misdemeanor counts of drug possession and one misdemeanor count of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Magisterial District Judge Rick Cronauer arraigned O'Leary on the charges Thursday — as well as on a separate simple assault and strangulation case troopers filed out of Plymouth Twp. — and set bail at a combined $20,000.
O'Leary was being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 21.
Glen Lyon man charged with hitting 2 cop cars during chase
JAMES HALPIN – Citizens Voice
A Glen Lyon man remained hospitalized Wednesday after being charged with crashing into two police cars while leading a high-speed chase across the valley with a fanny pack full of methamphetamine and marijuana, according to police.
Jeremy Michael Shea, 32, of 29 Railroad St., is facing felony fleeing and eluding charges following the chase that spanned from Nanticoke to the West Side and then back across the Susquehanna River to Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday evening.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Shea remained hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries, Nanticoke Police Chief Michael Roke said.
According to the complaint, a Nanticoke officer spotted Shea, whose driver's license is suspended, driving a blue and white motorcycle without a license plate in the 200 block of Lower Broadway Street.
Shea failed to stop for the officer and took off across the Nanticoke Bridge, speeding up to around 60 mph as he took U.S. Route 11 into Plymouth, according to police.
Shea repeatedly crossed into oncoming traffic, forcing other drivers to swerve out of the way, and ran multiple stop lights and signs as he led police though the borough and then back up to Edwardsville, police said.
Shea hit an Edwardsville police car while passing it on Route 11, leading the chase into Kingston and then across the Market Street Bridge into Wilkes-Barre, according to the complaint.
The chase, drawing ever more officers from the involved municipalities, eventually ended up with Shea being cornered at North Washington and East Maple streets in the city's North End.
As he continued trying to elude capture, Shea drove up onto a sidewalk and through a front yard before crashing into a second police car — this one owned by the City of Wilkes-Barre, according to the complaint.
Police tackled a combative Shea to the ground and eventually restrained him with officers from three jurisdictions, the charges allege.
They found Shea in possession of a glass pipe as well as a fanny pack containing a bag of meth and three jars of marijuana, according to the complaint.
Shea was taken to an area hospital to be treated for injuries including several broken bones.
Police charged him with felony counts of fleeing police, criminal mischief and drug possession, as well as misdemeanor counts of fleeing the scene of an accident, resisting arrest, failing to appear in court, possessing a misbranded substance and driving with a suspended license.
Shea is additionally charged with a number of traffic violations, including driving an unregistered vehicle, disregarding traffic lanes and failing to stop at a red signal.
Court records indicated Shea had not been arraigned on the charges as of Wednesday afternoon.
Nanticoke police seeking burglary suspect
NANTICOKE — Police in the City of Nanticoke say they are searching for Richard J. Simon Jr., 38, on a warrant charging him with burglarizing a residence in January.
Police investigated a burglary at a home in the 300 block of West Union Street reported on Jan. 24.
Various tools and construction equipment were stolen from the residence, police reported.
During the investigation, police followed foot prints and wheel tracks in snow that allegedly led to Simon’s residence.
A search warrant was served on Simon’s residence when police say items stolen from the West Union Street house were recovered.
Police obtained an arrest warrant for Simon on Sunday charging him with burglary.
Teen to stand trial on attempted murder charges in Nanticoke shooting
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — A Wilkes-Barre teen accused of shooting a 14-year-old boy in the head last summer will stand trial on attempted murder charges, a magistrate ordered Friday.
James Alberto Jr., 16, of Wilkes-Barre, is charged as an adult with conspiring with John Carl Pearce IV, 16, of Wyoming, to shoot Jaylen Curtis in the back of the head and the right ankle during a drive-by shooting at West Green and Maple streets in Nanticoke on the evening of July 21.
During a preliminary hearing Friday, Curtis testified that he had been looking at his phone while walking to Park Market on east Broad Street when he was shot.
“I just heard a loud bang and that was it,” Curtis said, adding that the next thing he remembered was waking up in a hospital.
Nanticoke Patrolman Jacob Williams testified that he was the first officer on scene and arrived to find a woman tending to the bleeding wound on the back of Curtis’ head with some napkins.
“There was blood on the ground,” Williams said. “He was laying on his back, just staring up at the sky.”
Despite Curtis being unable to identify his attacker, Assistant District Attorney Julian Truskowski got to work placing him at the scene of the shooting with the assistance of the lead investigator, state Trooper Andrew Morgantini.
Surveillance footage from the area of the shooting showed a male wearing a ski mask and a black hoodie leaning out of the rear passenger side window, opening fire over the roof of the car, Morgantini said.
The vehicle was a 2014 silver Hyundai Elantra, which investigators learned had been stolen from a home on East Union Street on July 19.
The same car was later burned nearly to the frame in a parking lot near Eno and Church streets in Plymouth in a fire that Cpl. Justin Landsiedel, a state police fire marshal, ruled a case of arson caused with the use of an accelerant.
Surveillance footage showed the vehicle was followed to the scene of the fire by a black Ford F-150 with a “unique grill” that had been stolen from a home on Third Street in Salem Twp., Morgantini said. After the fire, the co-conspirators fled the scene in the truck, leaving the car to burn, he said.
Additional security footage obtained from the Sheetz at 568 E. Main St., Larksville, showed Pearce at the store, and his cellphone records subsequently showed ongoing communications with one of Alberto’s online accounts during the day and night of the crime, Morgantini said.
Truskowski argued that although there is little direct evidence tying Alberto to the shooting or arson, the surveillance footage and cellphone communications helped establish a “landslide” of circumstantial evidence against him.
“Mr. Alberto and Mr. Pearce are together the entire time,” Truskowski said. “There’s just too much proximity — same place, same time — for it to be a coincidence.”
Defense attorney Matthew Muckler countered that the evidence of Alberto’s involvement is “woefully short” of meeting the prosecution’s burden, noting that Alberto was not clearly identifiable in any of the videos and that police initially described the shooter as being a white, non-Hispanic male when in fact Alberto is Black.
“Any evidence that ties my client to any of that (the shooting or arson) is flimsy and conjecture at best,” Muckler said. “They have no evidence of any appreciable strength to tie my client to the shooting.”
Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker disagreed and bound over for trial charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, arson, reckless burning, criminal mischief, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, carrying a concealed weapon without a license and possessing a firearm as a minor.
The judge ordered Alberto to remain jailed without bail awaiting trial.
Pearce, who previously had his preliminary hearing, is likewise awaiting trial on attempted murder conspiracy and related charges.
As police escorted Alberto out of the Nanticoke Municipal Building after his hearing, he offered only a brief comment before a woman called out for him to keep quiet.
Warrant: Man shot partner in murder-suicide attempt
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
A Nanticoke man fatally shot his partner in the head before turning the gun on himself Monday night, according to a search warrant application filed in court.
Police say Scott B. Richards, 48, shot and killed 43-year-old Carrie L. Boneforte, the mother of his daughter, at their home at 389 E. Union St., Nanticoke, in an attempted case of murder-suicide. Authorities said later Tuesday that Richards had died from his injuries.
“My Heart aches you guys were everything to me,” Boneforte’s son, Noah, wrote on Facebook Tuesday morning. “So many people loved you and we will always remember you.”
According to the search warrant signed by Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker, police were dispatched to the family home shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday and were greeted by the couple’s 11-year-old daughter as well as Bonefort’s 21-year-old son and his girlfriend.
Investigators found Richards at the top of the stairs with a gunshot wound to the head and a black pistol lying near his body in a pool of blood, according to the warrant.
Richards was barely breathing and was rushed to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp., where he was intubated and placed on life support, police said.
Boneforte was found curled into the fetal position in a bedroom, also with a gunshot wound to the head. Police said she had no pulse and that it was apparent no life-saving measures would save her.
Prior to obtaining the warrant, investigators also noted an unfired full-metal jacket round in the upstairs hallway, along with a shell casing at the top of the stairs. There was also a hole in the wall near Richards, police said.
The warrant, which characterizes the shooting as a case of criminal homicide, authorized police to seize blood and trace evidence, firearms, ammunition, cellphones and photographs.
Nanticoke Police Chief Mike Roke said Richards died Tuesday. Richards had remained on life support while doctors prepared to harvest his organs, he said.
Roke said investigators were searching cellphones seized from the home in an effort to determine a motive for the shooting.
Nanticoke detectives, a state police forensics unit and the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office are investigating.
1 dead, another injured in ‘likely murder-suicide’ in Nanticoke
NANTICOKE – A woman is dead and a man was left injured after an incident in Nanticoke on Monday night, according to authorities.
Our newsgathering partners reported the news late Monday night.
Nanticoke Police Chief Michael Roke confirmed with 28/22 News Reporter Emily Allegrucci officials were called to the 300 block of East Union Street in Nanticoke at 8:24 p.m.
Roke explained a woman was found dead on the scene while a man was found alive and was transported to a nearby hospital. There is no word at this time on the man’s condition.
Chief Roke told 28/22 News that it was a domestic incident and was “likely a murder-suicide.”
Roke said there is no danger to the public and this is an isolated incident.
Nanticoke man pleads guilty to sexually assaulting child
WILKES-BARRE — A man from Nanticoke admitted in Luzerne County Court he sexually assaulted a girl several times inside a Conyngham Township residence in 2023.
Joseph Paul Banesh, 28, last known address as West Church Street, was accused of sexually and physically assaulting the girl between April 19 and April 21, 2023, according to court records.
Banesh pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, corruption of minors and simple assault before Judge Joseph F. Sklarosky Jr.
Prosecutors withdrew charges of rape, aggravated indecent assault, criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, strangulation and indecent assault against Banesh.
Banesh was scheduled for a trial this week but opted to plea guilty to some of the charges.
Banesh was charged by the Pennsylvania State Police at Shickshinny after a girl reported he sexually assaulted her. She was treated at a hospital in Columbia County.
During an interview with troopers, Banesh admitted to having sexual relations with the girl claiming the relationship was consensual. Banesh told troopers he “blacks-out” and only remembered suffocating the girl with a pillow, court records say.
Banesh remains jailed at the county correctional facility and is scheduled to be sentenced May 2.
Cops: Thrashing, threatening man sedated and arrested
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
A man who was stumbling drunkenly down a Nanticoke street last weekend began thrashing and hurling threats after being taken to an area hospital for a mental health evaluation, eventually having to be sedated to end his violent outburst, according to police.
Razhem Johann Smith, 39, of 372 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, is facing assault and threat charges stemming from the confrontation that began in the area of Middle Road and Espy Street shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday.
According to the complaint, police were first dispatched to a report of a man stumbling down the road and arrived to find Smith slurring and unable to stand up straight. Smith, who was wanted for failing to appear in court, lied about his name and, after being arrested, began spitting in the back of a patrol car, police said.
At the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Smith told officers he was suicidal and would kill anyone else lodged in a cell with him, police said.
Officers then brought him to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for a mental health evaluation, where Smith became “very irate and violent,” police said.
Smith began smashing his head into windows and walls, kicked tables and chairs and began thrashing around, according to the complaint.
Acknowledging that he is not legally allowed to buy a gun, Smith suggested he could purchase a crossbow that he could use to ambush arresting officers and hospital security, police said.
After threatening to stab a security guard with a four-inch knife “so he’d suffer,” Smith was given medication to calm him down, according to the charges. Smith then attempted to bite the fingers of the administering nurse, police said.
Smith was eventually sedated with Haloperidal and Benadryl after attempting to overturn his hospital bed, police said.
Smith, who was released after being deemed competent on Sunday, was charged with simple assault, making terroristic threats, providing a false identity, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and harassment.
Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker arraigned Smith on the charges Sunday afternoon and set bail at $75,000.
Smith was being held at the county jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 24.
Plains Township man charged with impersonating Nanticoke police sergeant
NANTICOKE — A Plains Township man was arraigned Tuesday on allegations he impersonated a Nanticoke police sergeant and a Luzerne County adult probation officer.
Dominick Rogo, 31, of West Carey Street, manufactured text messages between himself and the police sergeant and probation officer that he forwarded to a woman in Nanticoke, according to court records.
The woman, who is serving a probation sentence for retail theft, became suspicious and notified authorities.
Court records say the Nanticoke police sergeant and the probation officer denied communicating with Rogo.
One of the text messages solicited the woman to send Rogo drugs and cash, court records say.
During an interview with Rogo, court records say, he admitted to making up the text messages and sending them to the woman.
Police in Nanticoke and Luzerne County detectives charged Rogo with two counts each of impersonating a public servant and criminal use of communication facility and a single count of theft by extortion. Rogo was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker of Nanticoke and released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Nanticoke man sentenced for online child solicitation
WILKES-BARRE — A man from Nanticoke who believed he was conversing online with a 15-year-old girl and asked if she was into “kinky stuff” was sentenced in Luzerne County Court Thursday.
President Judge Michael T. Vough sentenced Sean D. Lewandowski, 52, of West Noble Street, to nine-to-23 months in state prison for criminal attempt to commit unlawful contact with a minor and consecutive three years probation for corruption of minors. Lewandowski pled guilty to the charges June 12.
Kingston police with information provided by a cooperating witness charged Lewandowski in October 2021, part of a sting operation of online child predators.
According to the criminal complaint:
An unnamed cooperating witness provided online chats Lewandowski had with someone he believed was a 15-year-old girl.
Lewandowski asked the girl if she had ever been with an older man, asked if she ever had sex, and suggested performing sexual acts, asking the girl if she was into “kinky stuff,” the complaint says.
Lewandowski also asked the girl if her parents would call police if they ever found out.
Lewandowski was confronted by the cooperating witness, believing he was meeting the teenage girl.
Lewandowski is required to register his address as a sex offender for 25 years under the state’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Nanticoke man sentenced on child corruption offenses
Ed Lewis – Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — A man from Nanticoke was sentenced in Luzerne County Court on child corruption offenses Thursday.
President Judge Michael T. Vough sentenced Nicholas Jack McEwen, 40, last known address as West Green Street, to three years in the county’s restrictive program program with the first year on house arrest with electronic monitoring. McEwen was sentenced on two counts of corruption of children he pled guilty to when prosecutors withdrew two felony counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and four misdemeanor counts of indecent assault on Oct. 20.
Nanticoke police charged McEwen in March 2021, after two boys were questioned by a forensic interviewer at the Luzerne County Children’s Advocacy Center.
The two boys told the forensic interviewer McEwen sexually assaulted them inside his residence in December 2020, according to the criminal complaint.