TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR APRIL 30TH, 2021

An Aliquippa woman has pleaded guilty in U.S. District County in Pittsburgh for selling opioids from her home. Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Kaufman announced 27 year old Thaijenelle Smith pled guilty to one count of selling narcotics from her Aliquippa residence and possessed with intent to distribute approximately 55 grams of fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin. Smith faces 40 years in prison, a fine of five million dollars or both. Sentencing is set for September 30th.

The former treasurer of a Beaver County youth soccer organization, accused of stealing an estimated 100-thousand dollars from the group, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday.  Prosecutors had said that Jenessa Tolejko used league members’ money to cover her own household bills, pay for personal travel and to make various personal online purchases.  Tolejko is expected to be sentenced in August.  She faces a maximum 20 years in prison.

State Police in Mercer County have cited a tractor-trailor driver in connection with an accident on Interstate 80, that had traffic back-up for miles. The eastbound lanes of Interstate 80 were closed from the state line to the I-376 Interchange due to a multi-vehicle crash shortly after the noon hour. State Police say the tractor-trailer rear-ended a sign truck that was part of a line painting operation on the interstate. The tractor-trailer driver was cited for following too closely. No injuries were reported.

Officials are worried as only 49-percent of long-term health care workers have gotten vaccinated from COVID-19. State health officials say we know that the virus can spread quickly and often silently in congregate care settings. In order to battle vaccine hesitancy among this group, state agencies are running an education campaign to help staff. Officials say they are taking care of our loved ones every day, but we need them to take care of themselves as well as those around them.

The Senate Appropriations and Education committees have received an update of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s plans to consolidate six state-owned universities. PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein says the plans to consolidate Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities as well as California, Clarion and Edinboro universities are necessary for the future sustainability of the system, adding that the cost of inaction is “extraordinarily high.” Greenstein says he looks forward to a 60 day public comment period on the plans which is now underway.

Pennsylvania’s state attorney general on Thursday announced that pair of men were arrested in Allegheny County as part of an investigation into human trafficking.  John Carter and Simon Whaby were taken into custody after allegedly trying to coordinate with a human trafficker for sex with a minor child.  The AG says the two were actually talking to an agent from his office.  Preliminary hearings for both men are scheduled for May 11th.

There are several groups in P-A that want to keep the Commonwealth’s casinos smoke free.  A temporary smoking ban went into effect during the pandemic but had been required to make half of their facility smoke free previously.  During a conference call, several groups asked that the casinos stay smoke free or to, at the very least, survey their patrons about the possibility.

Pennsylvania is seeing more positive COVID-19 cases.  The state’s Department of Health reported more than 33-hundred new positive cases yesterday.  There are currently about 24-hundred people hospitalized with the coronavirus, and of those cases, 539 patients are being treated in the intensive care unit. Lawrence County has 7,225 and 205 deaths. Mercer County has 9,115 and 254 fatalities.

State Police on Thursday arrested a Greensburg man accused of raping a three-year-old boy.  The complaint alleged multiple instances of assault committed by James Swanson in 2019.  Troopers began their investigation into Swanson two years ago when an adult reported their suspicions after the child had made sexually-explicit statements.