Pennsylvania's Pill-Pushing Principal
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A middle school principal accused of selling crystal methamphetamine from his office after school and on weekends was arrested after police found the drug on his desk, authorities said Wednesday.
There was no indication that John Acerra sold the drug to students at Nitschmann Middle School, where he was arrested Tuesday, said Dennis Mihalopoulos, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Police said they began investigating Acerra in early February after an informant told them the principal was using and distributing the drug.
Acerra, 50, who was in custody in lieu of bail, has an unlisted phone number, and it wasn't clear whether he had an attorney. No one answered the door Wednesday at his modest rowhouse along a narrow alley in Allentown.
A letter was sent to parents informing them of the arrest, and teachers had spoken with the 950 students at the school where Acerra had been principal since 2000, said Bethlehem schools Superintendent Joseph Lewis.
"I am saddened and troubled by these events," Lewis said. "I offer no explanation. There is none."
According to court documents, police last Thursday watched Acerra sell a small amount of meth to a customer in a store parking lot. They stopped the buyer, who told officers he had been to Acerra's home 10 to 15 times over the past three months, officials said.
Police then arranged for an informant to buy $200 worth of meth from Acerra on Saturday in the parking lot of an Allentown drug store, according to court documents.
On Tuesday, police set up another $200 deal with Acerra and the informant, who wore a listening device as he began conducting the transaction inside the principal's office, authorities said. Acerra did not have enough meth to sell to the informant, and he and the informant arranged to meet later that night to complete the buy, Mihalopoulos said Wednesday.
After the informant left the building, police entered Acerra's office and found him sitting at his desk with a bag of meth next to a glass tube with meth residue and burn marks on it, according to court documents. Also on the desk was the marked money the informant used to purchase the drug, the documents say.
Police said that under normal circumstances, they would have made other controlled buys and tried to work their way up the drug network, but that they had to act immediately because of Acerra's job.
"We felt that it was important to take him down as quickly as possible," Martin said.
Whenever individuals engage in this type of allegedly criminal behavior, it hurts each and every one of us who dedicate our working lives to the education of America's youth.
We hope that Acerra gets his day in court.
And if proven guilty, the judge throws the book at him.