MAHONING COUNTY 20 charged in manufacturing and trafficking of cocaine
The charges are the result of a two-year investigation.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Drug Task Force hit the suburbs today to round up suspects in a massive cocaine conspiracy.
A Mahoning County grand jury handed up a 45-count indictment Thursday that lists charges against one woman and 19 men. The charges range from engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to trafficking in cocaine and illegal manufacturing of drugs.
Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said the indictment has a forfeiture count that asks for the house at 109 Clingan Road in Struthers. He said the place was used to manufacture -- reprocess -- cocaine.
He said the maximum penalty for the racketeering count is 10 years in prison, and the other charges carry sentences that range from two to five years in prison.
Only three of those charged -- Steve Willis, 22, of Belden Avenue; John Lawrence, 26, of East Boston Avenue; and Lewis Trebella III, 29, of North Richview Avenue -- reside in Youngstown.
Most are from Struthers:
Freddie Esposito, 30, of Perry Street; Richard S. Cummings, 30, of West Faith Street; Larry Gentile, 49, of Clingan Road; Brandon Bodine, 22, of Maplewood Avenue; Joe Vanoudenhove, 25, of Helena Drive; Michael Sandusky, 27, of Sexton Street; James Musolino, 34, of Como Street; and John Giovani, no age given, of Harvey Street.
From Lowellville: Ryan McGary, 27, of Struthers Road and Rich Purucka, 25, of Jaric Street.
From New Middletown: Wesley Walker, 24, of Unity Road.
From Austintown: Richard Stiles, 26, of Fairview Avenue.
From Poland: Shawn Willis, 31, of Highland Avenue and Lori Donofrio, 34, of West Manor Avenue.
From Boardman: Mark Hilebrand, 28, of Gardenwood Drive and Shane Schneider, 22, of Shadyside Drive.
The out-of-state suspect is William Barnett II, 29, of King and Queen Courthouse, Va.
The case agents -- Youngstown Patrolmen Bobby Patton and Joe Rolla and Deputies Jeff Allen and Jeff Arnaut -- began the investigation about two years ago, said Lt. David Allen, task force commander. The officers were able to tie in the processing of drugs at Gentile's home to others eventually linked to the conspiracy, Allen said.
The drugs were sold mostly in the suburbs, Allen said. The ring didn't limit itself to powdered cocaine, but also sold OxyContin, heroin and steroids, he said.
Allen and Lt. William Powell, commander of the Youngstown Police Department vice squad, characterized the drug operation as high level. They weren't able to say how much money the operation brought in to the sellers.
Powell said the drug transactions took places in homes, restaurants -- anywhere buyers and sellers happened to be. The sellers, typically, were contacted by cell phones and pagers.
Dennis Sarisky, assistant county prosecutor, said Gentile's ability to reprocess the cocaine yielded a 1,000 percent profit. Proceeds were fronted to the top-level members of the enterprise to buy more drugs, he said.