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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eight men indicted for conspiracy that brought heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico to Texas and then Cleveland

Eight men were indicted for their roles in conspiracy that brought large amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into Texas and then to the Cleveland area, law enforcement officials said.

Named in the 15-count indictment are: Jose Palacio, 40, of McAllen, Texas; Efren Vega, 47, of Cleveland; Heleodoro Zepeda, 40, of Texas; Hugo Aguilar, 38, of Mission, Texas; Jacobo Banda-Bermudez, 44, of Mexico; William Overdear, 50, of Cleveland; Anthony W. Konicek, 40, of Cleveland, and Abdel Khalil, 44, of North Ridgeville.

Palacio, Zepeda, Aguilar and Banda-Bermudez obtained kilogram quantities of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from suppliers in Mexico. Palacio and Zepeda then used family members, friends and vehicles equipped with hidden compartments to ship the drugs across the border into Texas, according to the indictment.

Palacio and Zepeda distributed some of the drugs to Vega in Cleveland. The rest went to suppliers in Houston. This took place in 2014 and 2015, according to the indictment.

Palacio, Zepeda and Aguilar robbed rival drug traffickers of their drugs in McAllen, Texas. They provided anonymous tips to law enforcement so rival drug dealers would be arrested. They also surreptitiously installed GPS tracking devices on their transport vehicles and on the vehicles of some competitors to monitor their movement throughout Mexico and the U.S., according to the indictment.

Once the drugs were in Cleveland, Vega distributed them to other dealers from various locations on the West Side, according to court documents.

“This group is charged with shipping pounds of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into Cleveland and laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

“These eight individuals conspired to bring large amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines across the Mexico border into Texas and ultimately making its way to Northern Ohio,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “This wide-ranging investigation is another example of the comprehensive strategy by members of the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force to target, dismantle, and eliminate the most significant criminal enterprises bringing danger and narcotics to our city.”

"This investigation is an excellent example of collaboration between law enforcement agencies which was instrumental in successfully dismantling a major narcotics smuggling organization in the Cleveland area," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI for Michigan and Ohio.  "HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to aggressively target and take down groups who are distributing narcotics and posing a threat in our communities."

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph M. Pinjuh and Henry F. DeBaggis following an investigation by Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force and HSI. The NOLETF is a task force comprised of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Division of Police, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the police departments of Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Lakewood, the Regional Transit Authority, Westlake and Shaker Heights.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Drug Trafficking
Updated August 13, 2015