Drug operation snares suspended police officer

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PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A suspended Pittston Township Police Officer has been charged in connection with an undercover drug investigation.

Investigators say 50-year-old Todd Houghtlin, from Duryea, was arrested in a heroin and fentanyl selling operation run by the Bloods street gang.

In May, the Kingston Police Department began an investigation into the gang which was suspected of drug trafficking in Luzerne County. The investigation led them to a house on West Main Street in Plymouth. Officials raided the residence in June and confiscated ammunition and drug paraphernilia.

According to court documents, police had the home under surveillance on Tuesday morning and followed a suspected drug runner from the house. Officials say Houghtlin met up with that runner on Route 11. When police pulled him over, Houghtlin immedialtely pulled out a Pittston Township Police badge. According to investigators they found 50 bags of Fentanyl inside his vehicle and a loaded handgun.

Houghtlin and three other people were arrested on drug charges in the undercover operation. The others include Eric Hill, who lived at the West Main Street Plymouth Borugh home, Candacelee Ellis and Hassan Lazarus.

“His certification with Pittston Township has been expired for 2 years and he has not worked here since July of 2018,” Pittston Township Police Chief Lena Angelella told Eyewitness News. “He has not been certified to make an arrest or write a citation throguh our department for two years.”

Angelella says Houghtlin wasn’t fired from his position, he just did not keep his state police officers certification current. Houghtlin was also a police offier 6 years ago in White Haven. He is free on $100,000 bail, the three other suspects remain in jail after being unable to post bail. 

“Sometimes this stuff doesn’t surprise me, because especially now people are looking for ways to make money,” Chuck Thoma, a Wilkes-Barre resident said. “This could be an easy way for him to make money. Throw out a fake badge that’s really sad… What is coming in this world now a days.”

Houghtlin is now facing a felony drug charge, one count of carrying a firearm without a license and two related misdemeanors.

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