Two charged in seizure of heroin and meth in Scranton

May 1—A tip that a felon in Scranton secretly had a gun and a later slip of the suspect's tongue led to two arrests Thursday and the seizure of more than a pound of heroin, 6 ounces of methamphetamine and tens of thousands of dollars.

Javier Luis Correa, 39, 1408 Sanderson Ave., is not allowed a firearm because of a 2008 conviction for drug charges, according to a criminal complaint filed by officers of the city police Street Crimes Unit.

On Thursday, Agent Joseph Harte and others from the state Board of Probation and Parole went to check on Correa's home after getting information that he had a gun.

Street Crime Unit Officers Jason Hyler, James Petrucci and Scott Benzeleski went to assist after Harte told them they found a 9 mm handgun under his couch.

That was far from the only illegal thing kept in his home, police said. Correa indicated to police he had narcotics. City Officer Jason Gula and Trooper Frank Carito, task force officers assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, also responded with other DEA agents, according to the complaint.

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During the initial search of the home — which is shared by Correa's 29-year-old girlfriend, Mariela Vargas de Mendez — authorities found 57 grams of an "unknown rock-like substance" in a plastic tool box kept in a closet, sifters holding white, powdery residue, and paraphernalia often used by drug dealers.

The substance they found will be sent to a state police laboratory for testing, according to the complaint. Benzeleski also found 50 grams of marijuana in a bedroom during the first search. Police also found cash totaling between $10,000 and $20,000.

Correa admitted the handgun was his and went with the police to their South Washington Avenue headquarters for an interview.

During the interview, authorities allowed Correa to call his girlfriend on the telephone. The couple conversed in Spanish. Correa did not know Carito speaks Spanish and understood what he was saying.

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Correa asked Vargas de Mendez three times if the police had found "everything," according to the complaint. They hadn't, she replied, and Correa made reference to something "under the bed."

That brought the cops back to Sanderson Avenue. Vargas de Mendez gave them consent to search a second time.

In an upstairs bedroom, they found 10 bags of heroin tied together with a rubber band — known as a "bundle" — and 3 grams of meth in a pack of Newport cigarettes.

Benzeleski searched the basement and found bullets for Correa's handgun. He also found, in Vargas de Mendez's purse, containers holding 174 grams of meth and 611 grams of heroin. Police took her into custody.

Correa is charged with several drug charges and a felony count of illegally possessing a firearm. Vargas de Mendez also faces drug charges.

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Both were jailed Friday in Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of bail — $150,000 for Correa and $50,000 for Vargas de Mendez. They have preliminary hearings scheduled May 13.

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