The arrests of suspects wanted for their roles in a heroin trafficking ring started Wednesday morning.
“Eighteen of them have been indicted federally. They are the major players, the people who are actually selling the heroin,” Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, police and prosecutors said this investigation started two years ago, targeting suspected heroin and cocaine dealers who were bringing drugs into the Valley from New York City, as well as those using the drugs locally. Police said many of those indicted are unemployed and steal to feed their expensive habits.
“The burglary rate in the outlying areas of the city is skyrocketing. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize where these folks are supporting themselves,” Jeff Solic, commander of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force.
In all, 55 people were indicted as part of this case, including Jean Carlos Martinez of Campbell, who authorities say was supplying heroin to the other dealers. Also indicted was Randy Triplett of Youngstown, who is charged with trafficking both heroin and cocaine.
“The goal here is to identify the sellers who are really profiting off these heroin users, and to basically bang them with federal charges,” Gains said.
Authorities said while federal agencies like the FBI provided the technology needed to mount the investigation, local police supplied the necessary manpower.
“In 18 years in the Mahoning Valley, I don’t think I have seen this level of cooperation. We have all been involved, federal, state and local agencies,” FBI special agent Todd Werth said.
At the time of the press conference around 2:30 p.m., 12 of 18 suspects indicted federally had been arrested, with 13 of 37 indicted at the state level in custody.
Representatives from the FBI, Youngstown police, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were at the conference.
Police said that cooperation was key in the investigation, in which they used their “entire tool bag,” and that the level of violence associated with the network was lower than they had seen in past sweeps involving gangs. One assault rifle was seized while authorities executed a search warrant Wednesday.
The Mahoning Valley Task Force’s anonymous tip line can be reached at 330-333-1847. Suspects who wish to turn themselves in can call the FBI’s offices at 330-965-2940.
Those indicted federally were:
The indictment states that Martinez supplied heroin to Delgado, Soto, Cruz, Alexander Torres, Florentino Torres, Esteras, Ortiz and Rivera for distribution in the Youngstown area. Delgado supplied heroin to Schmidt for distribution in the New Castle area and to Filimon and Hake for distribution in the Youngstown area, the indictment states.
Delgado and Filimon possessed firearms to protect themselves and their drug proceeds, the indictment states. Cellular telephones, code words and phrases were used by the co-conspirators to facilitate their drug trafficking activities, according to the indictment.
A related eight-count indictment was filed charging Filimon and Randy Triplett, 24, of Youngstown, with drug trafficking crimes.
One of the defendants indicted at the state level is Nick A. Mymo, who is a waste water treatment plant worker for the city of Niles.
The U.S. Department of Justice released the full federal indictment in the case Wednesday.