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COLUMBUS— Federal, state and local authorities announced the 48th conviction Friday in "Operation Buckeye Storm," a nearly 5-year multi-agency investigation responsible for dismantling a Central Ohio-based heroin trafficking organization. This final conviction caps an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, and the Columbus Division of Police.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Marlon V. Miller, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Delaware County Sheriff Russell L. Martin, and Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs announced the 48th and final defendant charged, Fernando Vargas-Trigueros, who pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to charges related to manufacturing and distributing heroin.
Operation Buckeye Storm commenced in March 2010 after special agents connected a loose network of heroin traffickers who were already under scrutiny by local authorities.
Investigators found that the ring, organized around cells based in Central Ohio, used traffickers to move loads of heroin and other drugs from Mexico for subsequent sale in and around Columbus. After arriving in in the United States, the contraband, which also included cocaine and pills, was sold to distributors nationwide.
“Operation Buckeye Storm has played a significant role in combatting the sales and abuse of heroin in Central Ohio,” said U.S. Attorney Stewart. “This is a great example of dedicated law enforcement on every level.”
"Today marks an important milestone in the effort against the heroin problem that is wreaking havoc in Central Ohio," said Miller, Special Agent in Charge, HIS. "I applaud the work of the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who spent countless hours meticulously dismantling this narcotics scheme over the last five years. But our work is not done. We must continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners as well as the treatment and prevention community on an aggressive and holistic approach to combatting this problem."
“The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the partnership with our colleagues at the federal level,” said Martin, Delaware County Sheriff. “As we all know, these criminal operations extend well beyond any specific jurisdictional boundary. With the combined resources at the local, state and federal level we can have a more significant impact on the illegal trafficking and distribution of heroin. We are all acutely aware of the quality of life impact heroin and opiate abuse is having in our communities.”
“Dedication and teamwork led to the investigation and convictions of heroin dealers who fueled the heroin epidemic in Central Ohio,” Columbus Police Chief Jacobs said. “The Columbus Division of Police hopes with these convictions, we’ve made a dent in the trade and severed the supply for heroin addicts, many who want to overcome their addiction.”
In addition to the convictions of 48 individuals involved in the scheme, authorities seized nearly a half million dollars in cash, nearly 9,000 grams of heroin, 43 grams of cocaine, 14 firearms and other contraband.
In total, the first 47 individuals convicted have been sentenced to 1,842.5 months, or 153 years, imprisonment for the drug related charges.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the HSI, Delaware County Sheriff and Columbus Police, and the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who have prosecuted the cases.