ATHENS TWP. - Four people have been charged and arrests are pending against 13 others in a "drug harvest" announced Tuesday by the Bradford County District Attorney and the Bradford County Drug Task Force.

District Attorney Dan Barrett reported at a press conference Tuesday that the arrests and pending arrests are the result of a two-year investigation conducted by the Drug Task Force, as well as members of various local law enforcement agencies, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New York State Police, the sheriff's department of Tioga County, N.Y., and the Elmira, N.Y. city police. Attending the press conference with Barrett was Athens Township Police Chief Larry Hurley, Sayre Borough Police Chief Kevin Guinane, Athens Borough Police Chief Chris Hutchinson, and Bradford County Detective Greg Hostettler.

Barrett explained that arrest warrants have been obtained for 17 suspects in both Pennsylvania and New York. The four suspects who have been charged, according to information provided at the press conference, are as follows:

- Barbara J. Barber, 28, of Ranch Road, Waverly, has been charged with one count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana. Barber is accused of selling a quantity of marijuana to an undercover police officer. Barber was arraigned on Dec. 15 and released on her own recognizance.

- David Michael Irons, 23, of Owego Road, Candor, N.Y., has been charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility. Irons was arrested on Dec. 4 on allegations he delivered a quantity of marijuana to an undercover officer in October 2008, and January 2009. Irons was initially ordered incarcerated, but has since been released after posting bail.

- James H. Mosher, 40, of Miller Street, Elmira, N.Y., has been charged with one count of a controlled substance, one count of delivery of a controlled substance, and one count of criminal use of a communications facility. Mosher was arrested on Dec. 7 on allegations he delivered a quantity of crack cocaine to an undercover police officer in August 2009. Mosher has been ordered incarcerated in the Bradford County Correctional Facility in lieu of $25,000 bail.

- Douglas E. Yale, 54, of Westbrook Street, Sayre, has been charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility, on allegations he delivered prescription drugs to an undercover officer in January and February 2008. Yale was arrested on Dec. 10, and later released on his own recognizance.

Of the other 13 suspects - who were not named during the press conference - seven are from Pennsylvania, according to Barrett, and six are from New York. Chief Hurley said that arrests of the remaining 13 will be made over the next few weeks, and all are expected to be charged by January.

The suspects, Hurley explained, were mostly individuals acting on their own, as opposed to a large "gang" operating as a single unit. He said that a couple of "sub-dealers" were set up in an apartment in the Valley by larger dealers from New York, with the explicit purpose for selling drugs in the area. Hurley theorized that the New York dealers were trying to set up an operation across the border on the theory that things would be easier in the area from a law enforcement standpoint. The chief said that they want to send a message to such people that enforcement will be just as tough in the Valley and other sections of Pennsylvania as it is in New York.

Barrett explained that the reason why the suspects are being picked up a few at a time over a period of several weeks as opposed to all at once in a more traditional "drug sweep" is to avoid overstraining the resources of local law enforcement facilities, as well as the courts. Barrett said that the latest "drug harvest" is the result of two years of work on the part of the Bradford County Drug Task Force, which is made up of member of various local law enforcement agencies, and funded by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Narcotics Office.

The suspects, Hurley explained, range from late teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, and people into their 50s. Because of this, he said, the Task Force can not target a specific group of people who are selling the drugs. He said that the drugs involved in the investigation included marijuana, crack cocaine, as well as prescription drugs being sold illegally.

Hurley said that suspects were obtaining the prescription drugs in a variety of ways. In some cases, he said, the suspects would obtain the prescriptions via legitimate means, then illegally resell them at enormous profit. He explained that one 80mg tablet of oxycodone, a prescription painkiller, can sell for as much as $80 on the illegal market. In other circumstances, the chief said, the suspects purchase the drugs illegally from people who have their own prescriptions. Hurley said they're also investigating a number of thefts reported from certain local pharmacies.

Asked if the problem has shown up in any of the local school districts, Hurley said they have one suspect who was formerly a cafeteria worker at one of the area schools. The chief declined to give the person's name because said person is still at liberty, but explained the suspect is expected to be picked up and charged in the near future. The person, he said, is suspected of illegally selling prescription drugs to students as they were standing in the lunch line. Barrett explained that the suspect has not been employed at the school district in question for quite a while.

Concerning how illegal drug dealing can affect a community, Hurley said that such actions tend to breed theft, such as retail theft from businesses, theft from vehicles, and theft of vehicles. Barrett pointed out that there's also the strain on the health care system that people using illegal drugs ultimately place on it.

"And a lot of people who can't afford to use drugs end up selling drugs," Barrett said.

Barrett also said that further investigations into additional local illegal drug activities will be conducted by the Bradford County Drug Task Force in 2010.

Hurley, Guinane and others thanked the Attorney General's Office, plus local and state law enforcement agencies for their support. Without such support, the chiefs explained, many of the things accomplished by the Drug Task Force would not be possible.