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Ohio Valley in path of drug-fueled storm


Prescription pills and heroin have become common recently

By Fred Connors

Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register

WHEELING, W.Va. – Just as the Ohio Valley is emerging from a stretch of bitterly cold weather, it finds itself in the eye of another storm that is sweeping across the country – prescription pills and heroin.

Local drug task force arrests, guilty pleas and drug-related convictions in federal court have become commonplace during the past several months. U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said the area’s drug problem is growing.

“This is what we deal with on a daily basis in the Northern Panhandle and Northern District of West Virginia,” Ihlenfeld said. “We have a prescription painkiller storm raining down on our region.’

On Jan. 23, news surfaced of Ritchie Elementary School counselor Kristyn Fetcko being arrested on federal drug charges after a Jan. 14 criminal complaint alleged that a confidential informant bought 10 oxycodone pills from Fetcko at her Webster Avenue home in Wheeling.

That case is linked to a much larger, 14-month investigation of prescription drug deals allegedly supplied by Brian Schultz, 37, of Triadelphia. Federal court documents allege Schultz supplied drug deals in Wheeling, St. Clairsville, Shadyside and Bellaire, and that he met with Michigan residents locally to receive shipments of pills.

In a separate case, on Friday, a federal jury in Wheeling convicted Rocci Wade, 59, of Moundsville on oxycodone-related charges as part of a five-person conspiracy that distributed painkillers between 2010 and 2013 in the Moundsville area.

In companion cases, Diane Savage, 49; Alisha Letts, 29; and Rocque Garcia, 54, all of Moundsville, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, along with Julia Joseph, 44, of Van Nuys, Calif.

Wade faces up to 40 years in prison while the others could each get 20 years.

Ihlenfeld said the drug cases have become business-as-usual for this region.

“Our region finds itself in the middle of a prescription painkiller and heroin-fueled storm that is moving west to east, from Mexico to Maryland and places in between,” he said. “We are seeing a heavy volume of painkillers being trafficked in this area – and also an uptick in heroin…”

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