CLEVELAND—Twenty-four people have been indicted in U.S. District Court following one of the largest heroin seizures in Ohio history, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach, FBI Special Agent in Charge C. Frank Figliuzzi, and Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath announced today.
Authorities seized more than 20 kilograms of heroin and more than $1.8 million in cash as part of “Operation Little Wren.” The case was investigated by the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force.
“This organization taken down this morning was responsible for much of the heroin coming into Northeast Ohio,” U.S. Attorney Dettelbach said. “Our goal is to send them to prison and take their money, their drugs and their houses.”
“This monumental investigation could not have taken place without the hard work and cooperation of all the agencies that make up the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force, said Police Chief McGrath. “Illegal drug sales and use are destroying the infrastructure of our cities, communities and families.”
As alleged in the indictment:
- Christopher Ugochukwu, 39, of Lagos, Nigeria, supplied dealers with heroin from that country.
- Bryant Johnson, 48, of Solon, Ohio, and Richard Lanier, 66, of Cleveland, dealt multiple kilograms of heroin throughout the region, particularly on Cleveland’s east side, and operated stash houses in Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights.
- Christopher Sapp, 45, of Cleveland, dealt heroin obtained from Mexico, Colombia and Nigeria. He also allegedly operated stash houses on Cleveland’s west side.
All of the above have been charged with conspiracy to possess heroin with the intent to distribute. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years in prison.
Several individuals responsible for trafficking heroin in the region have already been prosecuted and are incarcerated in federal prison.
Prosecutors believe the 20 kilograms of heroin seized represents the largest seizure in state history. One kilogram of heroin sells for about $75,000. The street value of the drug—after it is cut, packaged, and sold in smaller quantities—is exponentially higher.
This case was investigated by the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force. Other agencies providing assistance include the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Cleveland Division of Police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, the South East Area Law Enforcement Task Force and the police departments of Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Garfield Heights, Parma, Shaker Heights, University Heights, and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Baeppler.
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.