Officers say the men took undercover agents from a Boardman motel to the cocaine.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Three Illinois men and a California man are in Mahoning County jail on charges stemming from what is believed to be the second-largest undercover cocaine bust in Mahoning Valley history.
The haul involved about 88 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of between $10 million and $12 million, authorities said.
Armando Martinez-Fragoso, 42, of Cocina, Calif.; Rafael Nunez, 50, of Palos Park, Ill.; and Luis Burciaga-Acosta, 33, and David Lopez, 41, both of Chicago, made an initial appearance Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Youngstown. They are each charged with federal possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Nunez also is charged with federal possession of a firearm during the commission of a drug offense.
Bond and probable cause hearings for the four are expected in the coming days.
Seized near truck stop
The men were arrested after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force and Austintown police made the seizure early Tuesday from a tractor-trailer parked on Seventy-Six Drive across from a truck stop in Austintown.
Douglas Lamplugh, agent in charge of the DEA's Youngstown office, said it was the second-largest drug bust made as a result of an undercover operation in the Mahoning Valley.
The largest bust stemming from an undercover investigation in the Valley occurred in April, when law enforcement officers confiscated 264 pounds of cocaine in Liberty and Austintown and arrested 10 men and two women, many from Chicago. Lamplugh said law enforcement officers don't know of any direct ties between those arrested in April and those arrested Tuesday.
Ronald Bakeman of the U.S. Attorney General's office in Cleveland noted that the 88 pounds of cocaine confiscated Tuesday was considered an "extremely substantial" amount for an undercover bust in Ohio.
The bust resulted from a two-month investigation.
Lamplugh said undercover law enforcement officers met with the four at a Boardman motel about 4:40 a.m. Tuesday and then drove with Martinez-Fragoso, Nunez and Lopez to the tractor-trailer in Austintown. Martinez-Fragoso, Nunez and Lopez were arrested when they gave the cocaine to the agents, Lamplugh said.
The agents later returned to the motel and arrested Burciaga-Acosta and searched his room. Lamplugh would not name the motel.