Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

VisionQuest’s Az director faces cocaine charge, quits

The director of VisionQuest in Arizona has resigned after his arrest in a cocaine conspiracy case.

The arrest of Anthony James Zasa Jr., 51, came after his brother Roco Zasa was arrested Feb. 22 in Texas following a police stop in which 440 pounds of cocaine turned up in the recreational vehicle he drove, a federal complaint filed in New Jersey said.

Anthony Zasa was arrested Wednesday in Elfrida, where he lives, said Jim Lacey, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tucson.

Zasa submitted his resignation as VisionQuest’s director of operations for Arizona at 9 a.m. Wednesday, hours before his arrest, said Mark Contento, executive vice president of the Tucson-based VisionQuest National Ltd.

VisionQuest offers rehabilitation programs for troubled and delinquent youths at facilities in Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Delaware, its Web site said.

Roco Zasa was arrested in Groom, Texas, the complaint said, and he told federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration that he was to deliver the drugs to New Jersey under his brother’s direction.

Sham narcotics were substituted for the cocaine, and it was delivered under DEA supervision and surveillance to two other people, Lacey said. The two were arrested earlier this week.

The four will be tried in New Jersey, Lacey said, adding that if convicted, they each would face 10 years to life in prison and a maximum $4 million fine. The four are charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute it.

The complaint said Roco Zasa told agents after his arrest that his brother, who the complaint said originally had the cocaine, and Alex Heatherington loaded the drugs into Roco Zasa’s RV and agreed to pay Roco Zasa to drive the cocaine to Kacey Hallford Root, 25, in Elizabeth, N.J.

Heatherington and Root were arrested in New Jersey.

Heatherington, Root and Roco Zasa also were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute it, the complaint said.

Lacey did not know what Heatherington and Root did for a living.

Lacey said the cocaine would wholesale for $4 million in New Jersey.

Contento said he has known Anthony Zasa for about 20 years and “never” had any indication of problems with him.

“We are in shock and disbelief over these allegations,” Contento said.

Anthony Zasa transferred from New Jersey to Tucson about a year ago to head VisionQuest’s Arizona operation, Contento said.

VisionQuest started in Tucson in 1973. It cares for 1,500 youths a month nationwide, the Web site said.

Contento said counselors in Arizona are working with 100 youths ranging in age from 12 to 18.

“This has no association with VisionQuest,” Contento said of the charges against Anthony Zasa.

Contento said Roco Zasa also worked for VisionQuest as a program manager, but left the organization five years ago.

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