From left, Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick, and Kevin Graber from the DEA, listen as U.S. attorney Steven M. Dettlebach discusses the indictments.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
An indictment filed on Thursday in federal court alleges that, during a 10-year period, more than 2,400 pounds of cocaine and marijuana was trafficked into the Toledo area from as far away as Mexico.
In the 28-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, 28 people are named as defendants with various counts against them. Fifteen are from Ohio, seven from Toledo.
All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The indictment contains 21 counts.
As of Thursday evening, nine Ohioans tied to the case were in custody: Joe Arguelles, Jr., 33, and Francisco Rodriguez, 36, both of Gibsonburg; Angelo Pecina, 62, of Oregon; Cato Hornbeak, 37, of Maumee; Leopoldo T. Pecina, 38, of Northwood, Jose C. Rodriguez III, 38, of Perrysburg, and Joseph A. Malino, 39, Marcus A. Barrera, 34, and David S. Smith, 27, all of Toledo.
Still wanted by authorities are Eliza Perez, 42, Marwin J. Payne, 44, Christina M. Rodriguez, 40, and Melissa Gonzalez, 40, all of Toledo.
Also sought were Ricardo Pizana, Jr., 27, and Francisco Salazar, 46, both of Fremont; Lionel Perez, 36, Agustin J. Lara, 37, Jose Lara, 53, Juan Resendez, 36, Reynaldo Chavez, 36, Sergio Perez, 28, Esequiel Perez, 35, and Mauricio Sandoval, 42, all of San Benito, Texas; Brigido Herrera, 38, of Harlington, Texas; Mario Vasquez, 36, of Edinburg, Texas; Juan Luis Valdes, 47, of Laredo, Texas; James Nunn, 40, of Maywood, Ill., and Moises Razo,and Moises Razo, 34, of Mexico.
Authorities allege that, starting in 2002, the drug-trafficking organization brought more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine and more than 220 pounds of marijuana into northwest Ohio from Mexico and Texas.
Special Agent Kevin Graber, acting resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Toledo office, said the value of the drugs has fluctuated since the trafficking ring started. But he said cocaine is worth between $35,000 and $37,000 a pound. By that estimate, on the scale's low end, the cocaine's street value is about $77 million.
Mr. Graber valued marijuana between $1,000 and $1,300 a pound, making the trafficked marijuana's street value at least $220,000.
The indictment on Thursday is the most recent development in the investigation, which started in 2006, “to dismantle and disrupt major drug trafficking and their networks,” Mr. Graber said.
As arrests were made on Thursday, starting at about 6 a.m. Law enforcement officials confiscated at least three firearms. All of the arrests were made without incident, said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
According to the indictment, at least two men accessed large quantities of cocaine and marijuana that were transported in tractor-trailers to the Toledo area, where other defendants helped distribute it to street-level dealers around the region.
“This is a very significant case,” Mr. Dettelbach said. “When you're talking about a ton of cocaine and going back to the sources of supply as far away as Mexico, it's a very significant case.”
Although officials declared the indictment “a victory for the good guys,” Mr. Dettelbach said more work is to be done.
“The flow of drugs on our streets and into our community is constant and no one case is going to stop the flow of drugs,” he said. “Sadly, a lot of times, these things keep popping up as quickly as we can do them.”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 419-724-6054, or onTwitter @tdungjen_Blade.