Over $29 Million in Illegal Drugs Seized This Year in Task Force Operations
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, Governor Mike DeWine and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender today announced that the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC) seized more than $29 million in illegal drugs this year, resulting in 200 criminal charges and the indictment of 102 people.
“Drug dealers don’t worry about social distancing, and they didn’t take 2020 off,” Yost said. “Expanded funding through RecoveryOhio was integral to our success, and I’m grateful for our partnership with Gov. DeWine and Homeland Security Investigations – the return on funding is evident in these success stories.”
OOCIC’s major drug interdiction task forces, created through partnerships with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, confiscated the following in 2020:
87 pounds of fentanyl
168 pounds of methamphetamine
135 pounds of cocaine
8 pounds of heroin
3,117 pounds of marijuana
$6,640,020 in cash
“I’m incredibly grateful for the work of Ohio’s new drug interdiction task forces and the investigators who are working tirelessly to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our country and state,” Gov. DeWine said. “I have no doubt that their work saves lives. These enforcement efforts are critical to our comprehensive RecoveryOhio plan to prevent the sale, distribution, and use of illegal drugs throughout Ohio, as well as to expand law enforcement’s role in preventing substance abuse through prevention, education and proactive outreach.”
The strength of the task forces – which are funded through the Governor’s RecoveryOhio, in concert with the Ohio Department of Public Safety and the Ohio Criminal Justice Services – is rooted in the collaboration of law enforcement on the federal, state and local levels.
“Over the past several years, Homeland Security Investigations in Ohio has increased its manpower and resources due to the significant levels of dangerous drugs smuggled into the United States destined for Ohio, and the resulting illicit proceeds being smuggled and laundered back out of the country as a result,” said Callender, HSI Special Agent in Charge for Michigan and Ohio. “The state of Ohio and its law enforcement agencies are outstandingly successful in how they attack these transnational criminal organizations, and it’s our job to bring federal and international resources to the fight.”
Federal agencies primarily provide information and intelligence on matters ranging from border crossings to the history of drug dealers’ traffic patterns. Local agencies help identify areas in need of task force attention, develop confidential sources and supply most of the task force manpower. OOCIC provides equipment for covert operations as well as general and legal support to the task forces.
Under the commission’s jurisdiction, the task forces gain the necessary authority to complete drug interdictions, focusing their efforts on specific methods used by drug-trafficking organizations to smuggle bulk amounts of narcotics into the United States and, ultimately, Ohio – and eventually smuggle the proceeds back to Mexico and other countries.
Here is a breakdown, by task force, of the significant task force seizures in 2020:
Licking, Muskingum and Guernsey Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force is made up of the sheriff’s offices in Coshocton, Guernsey, Knox, Licking, Muskingum, and Perry counties; Ohio State Highway Patrol; U.S. Postal Inspector and Homeland Security Investigations; and Licking County Prosecutor’s Office.
Significant drug seizures: 24 pounds of cocaine, 45 pounds of methamphetamine
Estimated street value: $3,397,816
Firearms seized: 12
Cash seized: $95,230
Number of people indicted: 19
Criminal counts: 45
One operation netted more than $177,000, 40 pounds of methamphetamine and three handguns from a single traffic stop.
Medina and Summit Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force includes the Medina County and Summit County sheriff’s offices; the Copley Township Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the Medina County Drug Task Force; the Ohio State Highway Patrol; the Summit County Drug Task Force, and the prosecutor’s offices in Medina County and in Summit County.
Significant drug seizures: 37 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of fentanyl, 24 pounds of methamphetamine
Estimated street value: $3,487,441
Firearms seized: 23
Cash seized: $2,002,693
Number of people indicted: 19
Criminal counts: 45
In March, a task force arrest led to the seizure of 6.6 pounds of fentanyl and $30,000. The next month, the task force interdicted $774,830 from an individual traveling between New York City and Chicago who had made suspicious money transfers to Colombia.
In August, four men from New York City were stopped by the Highway Patrol with $64,140 in cash headed toward Cleveland. In a second interdiction the same month, 1,168 Oxycodone pills – to be transported from Akron to Detroit – were seized from a hotel.
Hamilton County Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force consists
of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Regional Narcotics Unit (RENU), Homeland Securities Investigations and the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Significant drug seizures: 43 pounds of fentanyl, 42 pounds of methamphetamine
Estimated street value: $7,576,535
Firearms seized: 59
Cash seized: $3,558,272
Number of people indicted: 30
Criminal counts: 36
In April, the task force completed a case involving individuals who were trafficking marijuana from the greater Cincinnati area. The packages interdicted included 99.27 pounds of marijuana, $315,472, 18 firearms, body armor, 70 1-ounce vape cartridges, 18 grams of hash and 980 packages of THC candy.
An August operation resulted in the arrest of three people who were charged with felony possession and trafficking charges for possessing more than 57 pounds of marijuana, a small amount of cocaine and MDMA, more than $750,000 in cash, one handgun and one shotgun.
Central Ohio Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force includes the Columbus Division of Police, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Gahanna Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Postal Inspector, the Ohio HIDTA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Ohio, and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
Significant drugs seizures: 69 pounds of cocaine, 32 pounds of fentanyl, 54 pounds of methamphetamine, 8 pounds of heroin, 2,275 pounds of marijuana
Estimated street value: $15,059,136
Cash seized: $736,862
Number of people indicted: 7
Criminal counts: 7
In February, the task force announced the indictment in Franklin County of an individual on charges of possessing 2 pounds of fentanyl, ¼ pound of heroin and $14,000.
Toledo Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force includes the Toledo Police Department, the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the Toledo Drug Task Force, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Perrysburg Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio, and the Lucas County and Wood County prosecutor’s offices.
Significant drugs seizures: 23 pounds of marijuana
Estimated street value: $107,145
Firearms seized: 12
Cash seized: $146,963
Number of people indicted: 15
Criminal counts: 37
In one operation alone, the task force confiscated more than 18 pounds of marijuana, a loaded pistol with two extended magazines, and almost $60,000.