By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
Local and federal law-enforcement officers have federal and state indictments for three dozen people charged in a heroin-ring investigation that has spanned the last three years.
Twelve people face federal charges related to the distribution of heroin in Mahoning County, mostly in Youngstown. Seven of those under federal indictment have been arrested.
Authorities said two dozen additional people face state charges related to the heroin ring. The indictment listed crimes such as trafficking in heroin, trafficking in cocaine, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and possession of criminal tools, but Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said he could not discuss the specifics of the secret indictment.
Those under federal indictment are: Tyrone “South” Gilbert, John “Fresh” Perdue, Tremayne “Maniac” Collins, Alexis “Scar” Perez, Rafael “Chino” Samniego, Dwayne “Weezie” Thomas, Edwin “Frog” Thomas, Danielle “Pocket” Littles, Rodney “Romo” Moses, Rogelio “Tito” Rojas-Pena, John Helms, and Luis Brisino.
Carole Rendon, assistant attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s office, described the heroin ring as an organized operation where drugs where brought into the city from Chicago by Moses, Perez and Gilbert and delivered to Perdue. Perdue would then distribute the heroin to others included in the indictment.
Rendon said the group would sell the illegal drugs across the county, but primarily operated in Youngstown, using homes on Brentwood and Glenwood avenues on the South Side as a point of operation.
Pete Vickmore, assistant special agent with the FBI, said the investigation into the group’s activities took three years. Efforts from the FBI, city police, prosecutor’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, involved detailed wire taps and surveillance.
Vickmore said law enforcement has confiscated more than $150,000, guns and heroin throughout the investigation.
Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley said the investigation is an example of what residents can expect to see more of in the near future.
“We are not laying down and we are not going to just accept this activity and violence,” he said.
Rendon said there will be more indictments issued from the investigation.
“For those putting this poison on the streets of our community, we will continue to watch and listen and if it takes a day, a week or a year we will get you,” she said. “This is a problem that is growing. ... We are seeing larger quantities and purer heroin throughout our district.”
The city is looking at 17 murders in the first six months of this year. Mayor Charles Sammarone said the efforts, such as this investigation, at stopping the drug trafficking in the city will have a direct effect on the murder rate.
“The quicker we can get the drugs off the street, the quicker we can reduce our murder rate in the city, so this is very important,” he said.
The indictment listed several taped phone conversations between those named in the indictment, including a Dec. 2 phone call received by Gilbert in which he says he will try to exhaust his heroin supply in 10 to 12 days because there is a high demand for the drug in Youngstown. Gilbert was stopped by police with $61,000 two days after that phone conversation.
“This is a prime example of what can be done when collective law enforcement work together,” Gains said. “I want to put the drug dealers on notice: We are going to get you.”