Largest International Operation Against Darknet Trafficking of Fentanyl and Opioids Results in Record Arrests and Seizures
Twenty people were indicted for their roles in a conspiracy that brought large amounts of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine into Greater Cleveland from Chicago and Yonkers, New York, law enforcement officials said.
Some of these conspirators had significant links to the Sinaloa cartel. As part of the investigation, law enforcement seized 29 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of heroin and one kilogram of fentanyl, as well as $400,000 and several firearms.
Named in the 51-count indictment are: Ismael Jacinto Acosta, 37, of Cleveland Heights; Alfonso Rodrigo, 36, of Warrensville Heights; David Urrabazo-Maldonado, Jr., 29, of Madera, Calif; Tennille Bryant, 36, of Yonkers, N.Y.; James Carver, 36, of Yonkers, N.Y.; Van Herron, 34, of Cleveland; Jose Hernandez, 55, of Chicago; Octavio Rodrigo, 60, of Maple Heights; Juan Carlos Solis, 26, of Chicago; Mario Amador-Ramirez, 52, of Cleveland; Roland Francisco Rivera-Erazo, 32, of Honduras; Maurice Walker, 31, of Cleveland; Manuel Maldonado, 37, of Lyndhurst; Reinaldo Hernandez, 27, of Cleveland; Cesar Zambrano-Espinal, 27, of Cleveland; Kelvin Zambrano, 27, of Cleveland; Jonathan Stepp, 32, of Cleveland; Ryan Miller, 33, of Cleveland; Nancy Vargas, 33, of Tolleson, Ariz. and Margaret Fernandez, 35, of Warrensville Heights.
The defendants conspired together from 2010 through 2016 to obtain fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and marijuana from suppliers in Chicago and Yonkers, N.Y. and then sell the drugs in Northeast Ohio.
Acosta obtained heroin from suppliers in Chicago. Jose Hernandez supplied vehicles with after-market trap compartments to transport hidden drugs and drug proceeds, according to the indictment.
Zambrano-Espinal used a home on West 130th Street in Cleveland to store and distribute the drugs and drug money. He supplied heroin and cocaine to others, including Stepp, Miller and Reinaldo Hernandez, who in turn sold the drugs in Northeast Ohio, according to the indictment.
The Rodrigos used a house on Maple Heights Boulevard in Maple Heights to store and distribute drugs and drug money. Maurice Walker, at the direction of Alfonso Rodgrigo, sold drugs and had access to stash houses, according to the indictment.
Jose Hernandez used a commercial bus line to attempt to transport two kilograms of heroin from Chicago to Cleveland, while Bryant transported one kilogram of fentanyl from Yonkers to Cleveland via commercial bus line. Bryant and Carver, working with the Rodrigos and Urrabazo-Maldonado, then transported the kilogram of fentanyl to the Maple Heights Boulevard home, according to the indictment.
Rodrigo and Margaret Fernandez is named in three counts for allegedly using the proceeds of drug sales to purchase several homes through the Cuyahoga County forfeited land sale.
“This organization is responsible for bringing nearly 100 pounds of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl into Northeast Ohio,” U.S. Attorney Carole S. Rendon said. “Sadly, the death toll continues to mount from this epidemic. Daily we mourn as parents bury their children and children bury their parents. In response, we will continue to aggressively target drug traffickers, while working just as aggressively to reduce the demand for drugs and to provide treatment for those already addicted.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Plancon said: “Attacking the opiate and heroin abuse epidemic in Ohio and across the United States is a top priority for DEA. The indictments announced today reflect the complete disruption of a significant drug trafficking organization, responsible for the distribution of kilogram quantities of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine in Ohio. In an environment where overdose deaths have become daily news, halting this group’s ability to distribute these very lethal drugs into our community is a victory for all citizens of northern Ohio. The efforts and cooperation of the Ohio State Highway Patrol in this investigation were vital, and deserve recognition.”
“The harm inflicted by these drugs is matched only by the profit potential for those who sell them. Today’s indictment is the culmination of a lengthy effort in which IRS-CI worked with its law enforcement partners to disrupt the flow of money -- the lifeblood that allows these organizations to proliferate,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “This is an important victory for the citizens of Northern Ohio. These individuals not only fueled the drug problem in Northern Ohio, but they supported addiction in several parts of the country.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert F. Corts and Marisa Darden following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations.
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.