Fourteen more arrests were made this week as part of a continuing investigation into a heroin trafficking operation alleged to have been led by Wayne Norris of Elyria.
Through the collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies, including Lorain and Elyria police, the Lorain County Drug Task Force, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, West Shore Enforcement Bureau and the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, arrest warrants were issued for individuals believed to be “offsets of the supplier,” Elyria Police Capt. Christopher Costantino said.
“One thing that our three organizations have agreed upon is that this investigation was far too big to handle alone,” he added. “The support we received from our individual organizations — meaning the mayor and the sheriff commissioners — I was never told ‘no’ in regards to this investigation in terms of anything we needed.”
With the initial arrest of Norris and six individuals tied closely with his operation, and the recent arrests, Elyria police Sgt. James Welsh said he believes a “big dent” has been put in not only the main source of heroin in the county, but some of the complaints law enforcement officials have received regarding the sale of the narcotic.
Welsh said the 14 charged in the second wave of arrests that took place Aug. 4-5 were individuals who purchased heroin from Norris and then sold it for a profit to support their own habits.
Welsh added that Norris, George Seymore, Robert Young and Tyshun Washington were “undercutting the market” by dropping the price on their product by upwards of $50 a gram.
“That’s why you see such a wide base of people from different cities from all over the county coming to these guys,” Welsh said. “And that’s why they had such a wide customer base.”
Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office said throughout his years of narcotics investigation, he has seen a ballooning effect in heroin use in the area. Cavanaugh credits the spike in usage to the decline of crack cocaine dealers who have now switched over to heroin distribution because of its relatively cheap cost.
“Unfortunately, it was bad before with just a small group, now with it spread out as it is, it is an epidemic-type status; and that is very concerning,” Cavanaugh said.
Beyond the continuing efforts to arrest heroin dealers in the county, Costantino said the three organizations are committed to working with agencies like the Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services to help provide treatment to addicts.
“We are not too naive to think that there’s not people waiting in the wings (to take Norris’s place),” Costantino said. “We will continue to work collectively together to address this problem.”
In a press release from Mike DeWine, the attorney general recognized the recent drug busts in Lorain County and Gallipolis, Ohio.
DeWine said since taking office, fighting the prescription pill and heroin epidemics facing the state have been top priority.
“My office has been working with law enforcement and community leaders all over Ohio on multiple fronts to deal with the opiate epidemic that is tearing families apart and killing Ohioans,” he said.
Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti said the collaborative effort state-wide is a perfect example of what can happen when agencies partner together to fight those bringing heroin into communities .
All three organizations said the investigation into Norris’ dealings is “one phase” of an ongoing operation and additional arrests are expected in the coming weeks.
Those arrested in the Aug. 4 and 5 warrant executions were each charged with one count of conspiracy to traffic heroin, a second-degree felony: Jordan Burke, 23, of Norwalk; Christopher Alexander, 29, of Elyria; Mickey Metheney, 30, of Elyria; Garrett Padgett, 30, of North Ridgeville; Gregory Smink, 29, of Elyria; Cody Yourich, 23, of Wellington; Christopher Songer, 32, of Elyria; Lucas McMullen, 32, of LaGrange; Larry Moore, 21, of LaGrange; Kennedy Schultz, 22, of Elyria; Josh Truman, 30, of LaGrange; Cheryna Samples, 20, of Lorain; Albert Hollis, 49, of Elyria; and Stacey Hollis, 25, of Barberton, Ohio.