Greensburg police chief charged in federal court with conspiring to distribute drugs

Jan. 25—Greensburg Police Chief Shawn Denning has been charged by federal officials with six counts of drug-related offenses.

Denning is charged with two counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine and three counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Pittsburgh by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Denning also is charged with conspiring to distribute controlled drugs from about June 2021 through October 2022, according to the complaint that was unsealed on Tuesday.

Denning was arrested by warrant and a video appearance before a magistrate judge was scheduled Tuesday afternoon, court documents indicate.

Denning was escorted from Greensburg City Hall Tuesday morning by DEA agents and later was released on bond, Tribune-Review news partner WPXI-TV reported.

A Marine veteran, Denning joined the Greensburg police force in 2008 after serving with the New York Police Department and a department in Manor Borough. Quickly rising through the ranks in Greensburg, he was promoted to chief last March, following the retirement of his predecessor, Robert Stafford.

The DEA worked with a confidential source in its investigation of Denning. Investigators obtained messages between their source and Denning in which Denning allegedly connected the confidential source with out-of-state suppliers from whom the source purchased drugs as part of the probe, the complaint indicates.

Denning also is accused of providing the source with menus and prices of available drugs, vouching for the drug suppliers and indicating he would vouch for the source with the suppliers so they would do business with the source.

The DEA alleges Denning "referenced others he had connected to the suppliers for the sale of drugs, he checked on the status of at least one of the deliveries to (the source), he checked on the quality of the product after the drugs were received, he sent money to the suppliers, he was waiting for packages from the suppliers himself."

After exchanging messages with Denning, the source used money provided by the DEA to purchase about 35 grams of cocaine for $1,650 and 325 tablets containing methamphetamine for $2,500 through a series of four mailed shipments from California, according to the complaint.

In messaging about one of the drug purchases, on Nov. 18, 2021, Denning told the source to "lemme know what you think of it when the pack lands," according to the complaint.

In a Jan. 10, 2022 message, Denning told the source, "All these guys are California west coast folks but are trust worthy with top notch product," according to the complaint.

The DEA said in April 2022 it also traced two payments of $110 each to one of the suppliers from a CashApp account associated with Denning.

The complaint cites a recorded conversation between the source and Denning at an Oct. 8 corn hole tournament in Elwood City. At the event, the complaint indicates, Denning gave a set of corn hole bags to the source, allegedly to make up for the source losing money through a $500 purchase of drugs that weren't delivered by an additional out-of-state supplier for whom Denning had vouched.

"Imma figure out a way to get that dude," Denning allegedly messaged the source about the undelivered drugs.

According to the complaint, the DEA's confidential source had prior convictions for access device fraud and was cooperating in the investigation in the hope of receiving a more lenient sentence for potential federal charges related to theft of government property and distribution of marijuana.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .