Twenty people face federal charges following a years-long Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into the dealing of cocaine and heroin in the Akron area.

Federal prosecutors say that Emery Lee, 60, of Akron, was the leader of the dealing operation and facilitated the arrival of kilograms of drugs from New York to sell on the streets of Ohio.

The DEA, along with a law enforcement task force in Summit County, has been monitoring the operation for at least five years, and used wiretaps to listen to the defendants’ phone calls. The indictment shows that the defendants, who were mostly from Akron, used code words to disguise the true nature of their conversations.

The grand jury handed up its charges on July 1, but the indictment was not made public until Tuesday, following the arrests of several defendants.

In all, the defendants face a combined 51 charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, drug possession, firearms possession by a felon and use of a cellphone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Gwin. Prosecutors are requesting the forfeiture of money, six firearms, a Kevlar vest, ammunition, drugs and money.

Lee, also known as “Mulehead,” was arrested in January¬†after authorities found an ounce of cocaine and some heroin in his home on Forbes Avenue.

Authorities found the drugs after Lee and Angel Pichardo-Martinez, a purported drug supplier from the Bronx who was also indicted in the federal case, and a third man got into a fight. During the fight,¬†Pichardo-Martinez’s gun discharged and hit him in the stomach and right bicep.

Agents also found $2,280 in cash, two guns, pills and ammunition hidden in a fake Pringles container, court records show.

John Luskin, Lee’s attorney, said his client “categorically denies these charges and we’re looking forward to answering these charges in court.”

Lee’s criminal history dates back to 1982. He spent time in prison in 1998 for leading police on a car chase and again in 1999 for attempted robbery.

He most recently was convicted of aggravated possession of heroin. He was sentenced to 18 months on probation.

Posted by Cleveland.com