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Sisters, seniors, neighbors and, police allege, heroin dealers

May 08, 2009|Joe McDonald

ALLENTOWN, PA. — Elizabeth Marie Grube, 70, and her sister, Elaine Volkert, 65, seemed to be typical women of their age, living modest lives in their mobile home park outside Stroudsburg, Pa.

But last month, authorities arrested and charged them with dealing heroin -- about $10,000 worth apiece per week -- from their trailers.

Investigators said Julio Cesar Checo, 28, who also was arrested and charged, was suspected of recruiting the women.

Monroe County Dist. Atty. E. David Christine Jr. said the arrests should shatter most people's stereotypes of what a drug dealer looks like.

Displaying mug shots of Checo and the sisters during a news conference, Christine said, "I guarantee you, if you were to flash [the sisters'] images across the screen, the last thing the average person in Monroe County would think is they are alleged heroin dealers."

Neighbors said the women drove older-model vehicles and lived in narrow trailers that rent for about $600 a month. Authorities said the sisters received large shipments of heroin that they packaged into bags that sold for $10 to $20.

"You'd never expect it, you know what I mean?" said Michael Delango, 20, who lives in a nearby trailer.

The sisters were arrested along with Checo when he allegedly showed up to collect $27,000 for an earlier heroin delivery.

All three were charged with possession of drugs with intent to deliver, conspiracy, and a related offense involving the use of a cellphone.

The sisters were released on unsecured bail, and Checo was sent to Monroe County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Christine said police had received a complaint about alleged drug dealing in the trailer park and had set up an undercover investigation using local police and narcotics agents from the Allentown office of the state attorney general.

The use of informants, drug buys and surveillance led to the sisters' arrest, Christine said.

Police executed a search warrant at the sisters' homes and found more than 1,400 bags of heroin.

Christine said police think the sisters had been dealing heroin supplied by Checo, whom they called "Little Tony," for at least six months.

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jmcdonald@mcall.com

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