Commonwealth to seize gas station tied to State College drug activity

The Sunoco station on University Drive will be auctioned or sold by the state after it was linked to drug sales.
The Sunoco station on University Drive will be auctioned or sold by the state after it was linked to drug sales. CDT photo

The recently closed Sunoco station on University Drive will come under physical custody of the state Attorney General’s Office on Jan. 5, according to an office spokeswoman.

The property will be sold either at auction or by advertising it through a commercial realtor, Carolyn E. Myers, assistant press secretary with the office said. Any personal property at the station will be retrieved and any liens on the property will be satisfied, she said.

A state Supreme Court decision in November and entered in the Centre County Prothonotary’s Office on Dec. 11 put the gas station in the possession of the commonwealth after a lengthy legal battle, according to the ruling from the court.

The station was owned by Greg Palazzari, 58, who was arrested on cocaine trafficking charges in 2009. He pleaded guilty to those charges in 2010 before Judge David Grine and is now serving a 5- to 10-year prison sentence at the state prison in Camp Hill, according to court documents.

During trial, the Attorney General’s Office asked the court to make Palazzari forfeit the property because he was allegedly moving cocaine through the building, according to court documents. Palazzari maintained that he was the owner “on paper” and the actual owner was his mother. Palazzari also denied he had used the station to sell drugs.

The state discovered documents that identified Palazzari as the sole owner and, in April 2011, the trial court granted the state’s motion that the property be forfeited, according to the documents. Palazzari appealed that to Commonwealth Court, arguing that state rules for civil procedure do not apply to forfeiture proceedings and that a hearing is necessary before judgment in such proceedings.

The court agreed, overturned the trial court decision and called for such a hearing, according to court documents.

The state then appealed to the state Supreme Court and the November decision by Justice Max Baer found that the Rules of Civil Procedure do apply to forfeiture cases, citing numerous other cases and state law, and ruled in favor of the original Centre County Court decision.

“Accordingly, we reverse the Commonwealth Court’s order and reinstate the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the commonwealth,” Baer wrote.