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Happy Meal heroin suspect in court

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POSTED February 11, 2014 7:54 p.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A woman accused of hiding heroin in Happy Meals and selling them from a Pittsburgh drive-thru has been “emotionally crushed” by the allegations, her defense attorney said Tuesday, though he stopped short of denying the charges.

Defense attorney David Shrager said Tuesday’s preliminary hearing for Shantia Dennis, 26, was postponed so Allegheny County prosecutors can get back crime lab tests on the alleged drugs.

Dennis was arrested Jan. 29 after police said they caught her selling 10 doses of heroin hidden inside a Happy Meal to a confidential informant for $80. Dennis would sell the drugs to drive-thru customers who called her ahead of time and uttered the code words, “I’d like to order a toy,” police said.

“She is a single mother of two children, she’s in her mid-20s and she’s struggling like a lot of people in our economy now,” Shrager told The Associated Press. “Certainly, if the allegations are correct, a transaction like this would net a person no more than $10 or $15.”

“The allegations are disturbing and she’s emotionally crushed by them,” Shrager said. As to the truth of the allegation, Shrager said, “I’m still investigating it at this point.”

Dennis, of East Pittsburgh, must return to court April 9 for the hearing to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to send the case to trial.

County prosecutors don’t believe the McDonalds franchisee who owned the restaurant knew about the alleged drug dealing. That man, Iftikhar Malik, has declined to comment beyond a statement he released the day of Dennis’ arrest.

“As an employer and a member of the community, the safety of our guests and employees is our first priority,” Malik’s statement said. “The allegations related to this employee do not represent acceptable behaviors and are not consistent with my values.”

Malik also pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Dennis was arrested after an informant accompanied by a police officer called Dennis and ordered the “toy.” The informant paid Dennis $82 and received the $2 meal along with 10 stamp bags — or individual doses — of heroin, according to a criminal complaint.

When Dennis was arrested, police found the buy money — the serial numbers of which were recorded before the deal — plus another $80 and a small amount of marijuana, the complaint said. Police said they also found 50 more stamp bags of heroin in her purse.

The charges received wider attention because authorities have been trying to trace the source of fentanyl-laced heroin being blamed for 22 fatal overdoses in and around Pittsburgh in recent weeks. The drugs allegedly linked to Dennis don’t fit that profile.

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