Bolivar man pleads guilty to role in failed drug smuggling plot

·3 min read

Jun. 16—A Bolivar man will serve up to four years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to his role in a failed plot to smuggle drugs into the county jail and for threatening a witness.

David Lee McGinnis, 28, was among six people — including his mother — charged in connection with the plan set in motion in early 2020 to smuggle synthetic marijuana and suboxone into the Hempfield lockup.

In court on Wednesday, McGinnis pleaded guilty to conspiracy and attempted drug delivery counts in connection with the smuggling plot. He also pleaded guilty to 16 other offenses, including multiple charges of witness retaliation and intimidation and conspiracy, in an attempt to advance the smuggling plot, police said.

According to court records, investigators intercepted telephone calls McGinnis made from the jail to his mother and his girlfriend to set the plans in motion.

Police said Denise McGinnis, 50, of Bolivar, and Matraca Vrana, 28, of North Cambria, were tasked with dropping the drugs off in the bathroom at the office of North Huntingdon District Judge Wayne Gongaware in early February 2020. That's where Joshua Petrill, David McGinnis' former cellmate at the jail, was to retrieve the drugs when he attended a preliminary hearing at the magistrate's office, according to investigators.

The plot failed when investigators caught wind of the smuggling attempt and prevented Petrill from gathering the drugs during his court appearance, police said.

Prosecutors said McGinnis and Petrill contacted Denise McGinnis to dictate a threat she passed on to a witness who accused Petrill of stalking in a separate incident. According to court records, police said the men wanted the stalking case against Petrill to be dropped and believed their smuggling plot had a better chance for success if he was no longer in jail.

Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced David McGinnis to serve a total of two to four years in prison and an additional five years on probation as part of a package including guilty pleas in two unrelated drug cases.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli said he asked that McGinnis serve up to eight years in prison.

David McGinnis is the second person to the plead guilty in connection with the attempted smuggling cases.

Terry Bruce Ely Jr., 32, of Penn Township, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and attempted drug delivery counts in March. He was sentenced to serve up to 23 months in jail and was paroled after given credit for time served following his arrest on Feb. 25, 2020.

Charges against Denise McGinnis and Vrana are pending. Both face two counts in connection with the smuggling plot and 16 offenses related to accusations they participated in the threats made against a woman police claimed was Petrill's victim.

Bilik-DeFazio is scheduled to preside over nonjury trials for Denise McGinnis on July 16.

Jury trials are scheduled for Petrill in July and conspiracy and drug charges are pending against Matthew Daniel Lucas, 39, of Jeannette, according to court records.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, or via Twitter .

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