Mercer County drug dealer Joshua Peters, who sold fentanyl and cocaine, coerced sex from female customers and tried to hide from federal agents, is headed to federal prison for 15 years for his various crimes.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab imposed that term on him Thursday, rejecting his lawyer’s request for no more than seven years on the argument that drug-dealing doctors get off lightly while the underprivileged are punished with heavy prison time.

The government, however, said Peters embarked on a crime spree in 2021 and 2020 after a previous conviction for drug trafficking in 2020 and deserves a long time behind bars.

A federal jury convicted Peters in December on gun and drug offenses following an investigation by police, the state attorney general’s office, the ATF and the FBI.

The evidence showed that he was selling coke and fentanyl out of his Greenville house last year. The Mercer County Drug Task force set up controlled buys in March of that year using informants. Officers then raided the house and found 34 grams of coke, six guns, ammo and cash. Peters can’t have any guns because he’s a felon.

Ryan James, Peters’ lawyer, said his client suffered from addiction to oxycodone after a 2015 snowmobile accident and should be rewarded with a lighter sentence because others in society, particularly pill-mill doctors, are not held to the same account as people on the lower rungs of society.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Haller said Peters deserves no breaks. He sold drugs, possessed stolen guns, demanded sex acts from female customers as payment for his drugs and took sadistic pleasure in humiliating customers. In one instance, he threw crack cocaine on the floor just to watch a male customer scramble for it.

“This is, among other things, grotesque behavior that goes beyond profiting from his customers to preying on them,” Haller said.

He also tried to duck the law.

Peters was initially arrested on state charges following the raid on his house in March 2022. He got out on bond, after which a federal grand jury indicted him.

In September, federal and state agents tried to find him at multiple locations in Mercer County but couldn’t. With the help of his parents, they did talk to him and told him to turn himself in. He said he would, but he didn’t.

Agents eventually tracked him down a week later and took him into custody in a convenience store parking lot in the middle of the night.

“Attempting to dodge an arrest warrant is not a trivial matter,” Haller said.

The judge sided with the government on the argument for a heavy prison term. In addition to the 15 years, he ordered Peters to be on probation for three years.

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at

Torsten Ove

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at