Drug ring kingpin sentenced in Mansfield

The kingpin of one of the biggest drug operations in Richland County history is going to prison for 10 years.

Damell Owens, 34, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of trafficking in drugs. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dismissed two other trafficking charges and a conspiracy count.

"We're glad to get this out of the way and get a plea from him," METRICH Detective Dawn Brown said.

Owens had been scheduled for trial Thursday before Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese.

The drug trafficking operation stretched from Mansfield to Atlanta and lasted two years. Authorities announced the breakup of the ring at an October 2010 news conference. METRICH collaborated with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the
Northern District of Ohio and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Operation Turning Point.

Twenty-three people -- mostly from Mansfield -- were charged with crimes involving powder and crack cocaine.

A kilogram of cocaine sold for $37,000 during the operation. At the height of the operation, authorities said, Owens and his wife were bringing in at least five kilos a week. The case against Latasha Owens is pending.

"They're people who had some connections," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Corts said previously. "They thought they could sell drugs and peddle poison here in Mansfield."

Corts said Tuesday he could not comment further because Owens still faces federal charges.

Owens is no stranger to local law enforcement. Court records show Owens has convictions for aggravated trafficking in 1995 and 1997, aggravated assault in 1997, having weapons under disability in 1999, trafficking in cocaine in 2001 and
felonious assault in 2004.

"The 10 years was agreed to," defense attorney Bob Whitney said.

Originally published in the News Journal on August 8, 2012.

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