Suspects named in Columbiana County drug sweep - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio


Suspects named in Columbiana County drug sweep

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A nearly three-year-long investigation into an alleged illegal drug ring that operated in Columbiana County has resulted in charges against 100 people.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced during a news conference in East Liverpool on Tuesday that agents used wiretaps, informants, and undercover drug purchases to break up a conspiracy trafficking in fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin, and cocaine in Columbiana and Cuyahoga counties.

The investigation was titled "Operation Big Oak", an acronym for Breaking Into Gangs/Opiate Addiction Knockdown.

DeWine says participants sold a total of 700 grams of Fentanyl and 21 grams Carfentanil during its existence.

Authorities say those are enough drugs to provide fatal overdoses to 1.4 million people, equivalent to the combined populations of Columbiana, Mahoning, Trumbull and nine other counties in Eastern Ohio.

According to investigators, those accused of trafficking drugs as part of the drug trafficking organization are allegedly responsible for funneling the equivalent of approximately 350,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl into Columbiana County alone.

The head of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force said the ring operated in several local communities. "Not just in East Liverpool but Wellsville, Lisbon, Rogers, Negley, East Palestine and Columbiana," said Task Force Director, Lt. Brian McLaughlin.

Four major ringleaders from the Cleveland are allegedly at the center of the trafficking ring.

The drug trafficking ring allegedly operated between Cuyahoga and Columbiana counties since 2014. 

Three Cuyahoga County men, who are the alleged ringleaders of the operation, are accused of operating the drug ring as part of the “Down the Way” criminal street gang. 

The men face several charges related to the trafficking of fentanyl and the trafficking of heroin and/or cocaine.

A fourth Cuyahoga County man, who was also identified as an alleged ringleader of the organization, is accused of trafficking carfentanil, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine as part of the drug operation.
According to investigators, the four suspects allegedly sold the drugs to dozens of mid-level traffickers who then sold the drugs in Columbiana County.
A total of 51 accused mid-level traffickers from Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Tuscarawas, and Mahoning counties are also facing one or more charges related to the trafficking of fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin, or cocaine.

 Nine of those suspects are charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree, which carries a mandatory 11-year prison sentence upon conviction.

Forty-five lower-level suspects were also indicted after investigators found that they allegedly contributed to the actions of the drug trafficking organization.

Two suspects are charged with felony assault for allegedly exposing East Liverpool Police Officer Chris Green to fentanyl during a May 2017 traffic stop conducted as part of the investigation into this drug trafficking ring. Officer Green survived the exposure after being revived with four doses of naloxone.

Those implicated in the ring face more than 750 charges.  Arrests began on Monday and more arrests are being made.

DeWine said during his news conference that the battle against the opioid epidemic cannot only be won only by arresting dealers. 

Representatives from area drug treatment agencies are on hand to talk with those being arrested, offering help to fight their addiction.

"This is the time that they're ready to listen. They get away from the drugs and the influences long enough to give them a message of hope," said Josh Lytle of the Family Recovery Ministries Program.  

The police chiefs say breaking up this drug connection will surely have a local impact.   "Think how many lives have been lost through this connection here, so I'm sure a lot," East LIverpool Police Chief John Lane said.

The investigation involved the Columbiana County Sheriff, County Drug Task Force, and police from Columbiana County, Ohio and Hancock County West Virginia.

The Ohio Attorney General provided the following list of drug trafficking suspects in custody as of noon Tuesday:

Alleged Ringleaders:

Tremaine Jackson, 28, Cleveland
Jermaine Jackson, 46, Garfield Heights

Alleged Mid-Level Traffickers:

As of 3 pm Tuesday 49 of the 100 suspects had been arrested.

Here is the most up to date list of alleged traffickers who are in custody:
Cristal Adams, 42, East Liverpool
Mark Bailey, 34, Rogers
Patrick Beam, 39, Rogers
Brian Bloor, 42, Garfield Heights
Justin Buckel, 25, East Liverpool
Donald Crumbley, 34, East Liverpool
Kelly Davis, 31, East Liverpool
Thomas Fannin, 74, East Liverpool
Francis Flaherty, 42, Youngstown
Antonio Fleming, 32, East Cleveland
Martin Fletcher, 32, East Liverpool
Adam Gallimore, 30, Lisbon
Mack Griffin, 26, East Cleveland
Grandville Lamar, 26, Cleveland
Amber McCauley, 29, East Liverpool
Bridget McKinnon, 31, East Liverpool
Sherman Pritt Jr., 38, East Liverpool
Susan Pritt, 33, East Liverpool
Micheala Reardon, 24, Garfield Heights
Thomas Redman III, 35, Rogers
Marissa Shasteen, 24, East Liverpool
Shelly Swigert, 43, East Liverpool
Tiffany Ulbrich, 31, East Liverpool
Shantelle Uselton, 29, East Liverpool
Cynthia Williams, 45, Youngstown
An additional 22 lower-level suspects are in custody as well.

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