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Published: Friday, 5/30/2014

PRISON TIME

Man sentenced to 13 years for 2012 drug bust

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Perez Perez
HANDOUT NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

A Texas man who led a drug-trafficking organization that brought hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana to the Toledo area was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in federal prison.

Lionel Perez, 38, of San Benito, Texas pleaded guilty last June to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Tom Weldon, an assistant U.S. Attorney, said Perez coordinated drug shipments to Toledo and other northwest Ohio communities from Texas and Mexico on tractor-trailers. He and 27 others were indicted in October, 2012, on allegations that beginning in 2002 they shipped more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine and more than 220 pounds of marijuana to northwest Ohio.

“Clearly Lionel was the leader of this organization, and we view him as the lead defendant,” Mr. Weldon said, adding that with his sentencing prosecutors “view this as a complete dismantlement of a significant drug operation.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Helmick imposed the sentence on Perez, who apologized to the court and said he’d made some bad choices.

His attorney, Stephen Hartman, said afterward that the sentence — the longest any of the co-defendants in the case has received — was appropriate.

“He was the leader of this conspiracy, and this group moved a pretty substantial amount of drugs over the years,” Mr. Hartman said.

He said Perez had tried to get out of drug-trafficking business several years ago but was pulled back in after his brother was kidnapped because he owed people money.

“They told Lionel if he didn’t go back to work off his brother’s debt, they would kill him, and so he got back into it for his brother’s sake,” Mr. Hartman said, adding that Perez admitted he “didn’t get right out when the debt was paid off.”

“People don’t understand how hard it is to get out of that life once you’re in it,” he added. “He made several attempts at doing so and in fact when he got arrested in this case he had not been involved for almost two years, but he still knew he had to answer for what he had done.”

Three co-defendants in the case — Agustin J. Lara, Jose Lara, and Esequiel Perez, all of San Benito, Texas — remain at-large. All of the others have entered guilty pleas in the case, and all but Joseph A. Malino of Toledo and Francisco Rodriguez of Gibsonburg have been sentenced.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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