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Pa. men plead guilty to St. Lawrence County drug charges

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CANTON — Two Pennsylvania men pleaded guilty to drug charges Tuesday afternoon in St. Lawrence County Court in connection with a 2011 Massena traffic stop in which they were found to be carrying 5 pounds of marijuana and $40,000 in cash.

“That tells me one thing: that you’re drug dealers or, at the very least, drug couriers, and that’s unacceptable,” Judge Jerome J. Richards said to Joseph M. Bolognese and Paul C. Katherman after recounting the circumstances of their arrests.

Mr. Bolognese, 26, Carlisle, Pa., and Mr. Katherman, 39, Columbia, Pa., pleaded guilty to third-degree possession of marijuana, a class E felony. They admitted to Judge Richards that they were co-owners of the marijuana discovered in Mr. Bolognese’s vehicle nearly 16 months ago.

State police confirmed that the men were stopped by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Route 37 on Aug. 5, 2011, and charged by troopers.

Under a plea agreement approved by the court, the men were released to the supervision of probation and allowed to return home to Pennsylvania until sentencing in March. They are to check in with probation weekly and to complete any substance-abuse treatment regimen prescribed by probation officers, including inpatient care, the judge said.

Each man also is required to pay $375 in fees and surcharges. Their ability to drive in New York will be suspended following sentencing, and the judge warned that they should make arrangements for traveling home to Pennsylvania after they return in March.

If the two cooperate with probation officials and do not test positive for any prohibited substances between now and March, the court is committed to granting straight probation, as agreed to in the plea, Judge Richards said. If not, the men could be sentenced to as much as a year and a half of state prison time.

“I assure you, if you do not obey the rules, there will be consequences,” Judge Richards said.

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