Meadville Tribune

April 30, 2013

Hearings postponed for accused Allegheny students in drug probe

Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Preliminary hearings scheduled for Monday for two 20-year-old Allegheny College students recently charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges have been postponed until May 7.

Gavin Dolan Gratson of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jacob Michael Bonessi of Beaver Falls have been charged with one felony count each of conspiracy and intent and two misdemeanor charges of intent to possess a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia; Gratson has been charged with an additional count of intent.

According to criminal complaints filed by the trooper who obtained an anticipatory search warrant in connection with the case, the story began on April 8 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Francisco air mail facility examined a U.S. Postal Service Express mail parcel that had come into the country from Canada.

Addressed to Bonessi at a Prospect Street, Meadville, address, the package had allegedly been shipped from British Columbia.

According to the complaint, the parcel was subsequently X-rayed, opened and examined by a CPB inspector and discovered to contain unknown powder concealed in a plastic packet declared as a “Movie DVD” on the waybill.

On April 11, the complaints continue, a sample of the powder was sent to a CPB laboratory, where a laboratory analysis identified that the powder was a substance known as MDMA or Ecstasy, which is a controlled substance.

On April 16, according to the complaints, the suspect parcel was forwarded to an officer in the federal Office of Homeland Security Investigation in Pittsburgh for further investigation.

On April 18, the trooper applied for and was granted an anticipatory search warrant by Saegertown Area Magisterial District Judge Lincoln Zilhaver.

Shortly before noon that day, according to the complaints, a controlled delivery of the Ecstasy-filled parcel took place at 281 Prospect St., Meadville. The parcel was accepted by an occupant of the residence; according to the complaints, the anticipatory search warrant was executed. According to the complaint, officers searched the residence, discovering several items of drug paraphernalia along with marijuana and mushrooms. Interviews with the occupants of the residence revealed the identities of three additional suspects.

At around 1 p.m. the same day, according to the complaints, officers arrived at the residence of both defendants, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house at 585 North Main St. When a consent search was requested and granted by both defendants, officers discovered marijuana, various items of paraphernalia and money order receipts. After both defendants were Mirandized and interviewed, they both admitted to arranging for the Ecstasy-filled parcel to be delivered to the Prospect Street address.

On April 18, both suspects were committed to Crawford County jail in lieu of $5,000 bail. Bonessi was subsequently released on bail the following day, and Gratson posted bail and was released April 22.