DEA targets New York-to-Youngstown heroin ring
Agents seize drugs, cash, vehicles, guns and ammunition
By joe gorman
Federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents have begun dismantling a New York-to- Youngstown heroin distribution ring.
Bob Balzano, head of the Youngstown office of the DEA, said agents began serving search warrants and making arrests last week, culminating a 15-month investigation.
When serving the warrants, Balzano said more than a kilo of heroin was seized.
During the course of the investigation, agents seized about 4 kilos of heroin, $200,000 in cash, nine vehicles, 26 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, Balzano said.
Of the nine people who have arrest warrants issued, five are from Youngstown, two are from Campbell and the remaining two are from New York City.
According to an affidavit filed in the case in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio, Jhosy A. Lopez of the Bronx, N.Y., and Carlos Gonzalez of Campbell, distributed heroin in the area through Jose Pagan, who dealt it from his home in the 1600 block of Shehy Street on the East Side of Youngstown.
From there, the affidavit says, the heroin was then given to others to distribute including to Jose E. Lebron, who dealt it from 12th Street and Whipple Avenue addresses in Campbell and Bradley C. Jackson, who sold heroin from Park Heights and East Florida Avenue addresses.
Agents used several undercover informants to make drug buys and recorded the transactions, according to the affidavit. Agents also received warrants to tap the phones and intercept messages between members of the drug ring.
An interpreter was needed because a lot of the phone calls were in Spanish.
The affidavit described code words those in the ring would use to indicate they wanted to buy and sell heroin.
Agents also intercepted one of the members giving directions to Youngstown to the courier, Caroline Alba-Ventura, who would drive the drugs from New York to Youngstown.
Balzano said the investigation took so long because the ring was a large and sophisticated one.
He said investigators managed to obtain 21 federal warrants during their probe.
Other agencies that helped included the Youngstown Police Department, the FBI, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The cooperation among the other agencies was the key to the investigation, Balzano said.
“It was a pretty good investigation,” Balzano said.