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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lorain County one of 10 locations selected for pilot project targeting synethetic opioids

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman Northern District of Ohio, today announced Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.), a new program that seeks to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas and to identify wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.

As part of Operation S.O.S., the Department will launch an enforcement surge in ten districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates, including the Northern District of Ohio.  

Each participating United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) will choose a specific county and prosecute every readily provable case involving the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of drug quantity. Lorain County has been designated as the area as it has been deluged with opiate overdoses. In 2014, the Lorain County Coroner reported 39 heroin overdose deaths with 13 of those overdose deaths involving fentanyl.  In 2015, that number climbed to 41 heroin deaths with 20 of those overdose deaths involving fentanyl. The staggering amount of overdose deaths in Lorain County related to heroin/fentanyl increased significantly in 2016.  In 2016, there were 131 overdose deaths and in 2017, the number remained steady at 132.  The impact has affected both large and small towns in Lorain County. Investigators have noticed that overdose deaths have sometimes occurred in clusters and are related to the recent influx of fentanyl, carfentanil laced heroin and other analogues.

In addition, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Executive Office will send an additional two-year term Assistant United States Attorney to each participating district to assist with drug-related prosecutions.

In Manatee County, a county just south of Tampa with a population of about 320,000, overdoses and deaths skyrocketed in 2015 (780 overdoses/84 opioid related deaths) and 2016 (1,287 overdoses/123 opioid related deaths). In summer of 2016, local law enforcement reported frequent, street-level distribution of fentanyl and carfentanil for the first time.

To combat this crisis, the Middle District of Florida committed to prosecuting every readily provable drug distribution case involving synthetic opioids in Manatee County regardless of drug quantity. The effort resulted in the indictments of 45 traffickers of synthetic opioids. . Further, from the last six months of 2016 to the last six months of 2017, overdoses dropped by 77.1% and deaths dropped by 74.2%. Overall, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office went from responding to 11 overdoses a day to an average now of less than one per day.  

The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, will coordinate with the Lorain County Prosecuting Attorney Dennis Will, Chief Duane Whitely of the Elyria Police Department, Chief Cel Rivera of the Lorain Police Department, Sheriff Phil Stammitti of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to work together on this initiative in an effort to aggressively combat opiate drug crimes. These charges represent a coordinated effort on behalf of the Federal and State partners to hold accountable these individualswho all have significant prior drug charges and have continued to peddle illegal opiate narcotics in Lorain County.

"When it comes to synthetic opioids, there is no such thing as a small case," Attorney General Sessions said. "In 2016, synthetic opioids killed more Americans than any other kind of drug. Three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal--that's not even enough to cover up Lincoln's face on a penny. Our prosecutors in Manatee County, Florida have shown that prosecuting seemingly small synthetic opioids cases can have a big impact and save lives, and we want to replicate their success in the districts that need it most. This new strategy—and the new prosecutors who will help carry it out—will help us put more traffickers behind bars and keep the American people safe from the threat of these deadly drugs."

“These drugs have killed thousands of our friends and neighbors and caused pain and heartbreak to their families.” United States Attorney Justin Herdman said. “ This initiative will allow us to work in a collaborative, targeted way on the enforcement side to reduce the drug supply, while continuing to partner with others in our community to help drive down demand.” 

Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said: “We are grateful for the excellent working relationship between all the Lorain County law enforcement agencies and our Federal partners.  We will continue working together to attack the illegal drug trade throughout Lorain County.”

“Through the cooperation of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together to share their resources, intelligence and manpower we can aggressively investigate drug trafficking organizations,” said Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti. “These organizations from the street level dealer to the main source suppliers are drastically having a devastating effect on our communities.  In conjunction with the newly formed Lorain County HIDTA, we are proud of all the units that work together to aggressively investigate drug traffickers.”   

This operation demonstrates another example of the significant federal presence in Lorain County and the cooperation that exists between federal and state agencies over the last several years to work hand in hand with Lorain County partners in seeing that those who repeatedly violate drug laws in Lorain County are held accountable and comes directly of the heels of significant Lorain County arrests last month.

On June 27, 2018, twenty-five people were arrested after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic drugs in Elyria and the surrounding area, including fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and fentanyl analogues pressed to look like pills of Percocet. 

According to the 59-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland:

Troy Davis traveled to South Carolina to buy from Jenkins pills that were laced with furanyl fentanyl and pressed to look like 30 mg Percocet pills. Davis brought the pills to Ohio, where he sold them to Phares and others.

Troy Davis sold cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and various fentanyl analogues to other drug dealers and customers in the Elyria area. Troy and Elonzo Davis, who are uncle and nephew, were supplied by Vaughn, Jarell Davis, Washington, Oliver and Rogers. The Davis’ then resold the drugs to Lawrence, White, Pryor, Hobson and others.

The Davis’ and others used homes in Elyria to store and sell the drugs. They also used numerous vehicles, including rental cars, as well as multiple pre-paid cellular telephones, to facilitate the shipment and sale of drugs.

Other recent cases handled by the United States Attorney’s Office with assistance from Lorain County Law Enforcement including the Elyria Police Department, The Lorain Police Department, The Lorain County Sheriff’s Department the FBI, DEA and the Lorain County Prosecutor’s office are as follows:

-Russell Davis was convicted after a trial of multiple counts of distributing heroin fentanyl  with of the distributions caused  an overdose and resulted in death to a person.  Davis was out on bond from Lorain County Court of Common Pleas when he committed the new offense. He had at least defendant had at least one previous drug trafficking felony conviction. Davis is facing a mandatory life sentence. 

-Delante Lunn was convicted after a trial of multiple counts of distributing heroin fentanyl with a specification that the distributions caused an overdose and resulted in death to a person.  Lunn was out on bond from Lorain County Court of Common Pleas when he committed the new offense. He had at least one previous felony drug trafficking conviction.  Lunn was sentenced to 25 years incarceration.

The Northern District of Ohio is one of ten districts selected for this initiative.  The other participating disricts are as follows:

Southern District of Ohio

Eastern District of Tennessee

Eastern District of Kentucky

Southern District of West Virginia

Northern District of West Virginia

District of Maine

Eastern District of California

Western District of Pennsylvania

District of New Hampshire

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Opioids
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Mike Tobin 216.622.3651 michael.tobin@usdoj.gov
Updated July 16, 2018