Member of heroin ring sentenced to seven years in prison

By Joe Gorman


A man indicted in July for his role as a member of a ring selling heroin was sentenced Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to seven years in prison.

Keith Johnson, 27, of Idora Avenue, was sentenced by Judge Shirley J. Christian after he entered guilty pleas Jan. 28 to attempting to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, three counts of complicity to trafficking in heroin, five counts of trafficking in heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The sentence was agreed upon by defense attorney Ross Smith and prosecutors Martin Desmond of the county prosecutor’s office and Margaret Tomaro of the state attorney general’s office, who helped build the case against the ring.

Smith had asked Judge Christian to reconsider the recommendation because of a sentence that is being recommended for a man who pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to several charges, who prosecutors said was one of the leaders of the ring. Smith said that man, Michael Cain, 39, is having light sentences recommended.

Judge Christian said what happens to another defendant does not matter in Johnson’s case. Smith said the sentence is a recommendation, not an agreed-upon sentence, and he asked her to reconsider, but she did not.

Smith did say that his client was taking responsibility for his actions and was a low- to midlevel dealer in the ring, who was charged after controlled buys of drugs were made from him. Smith said his client became involved because of his economic circumstances and own substance-abuse issues. He did not elaborate.

When given a chance to speak, Johnson had nothing to say.

Members of the ring were accused of selling heroin primarily on the East Side from June 2014 to April 2015. Of the 37 who were indicted, authorities said about a dozen were selling the drugs while the remainder were using it. Authorities said they wanted to offer a mixture of treatment and counseling for the users while meting out prison sentences for those who were selling the drug.

After court, Tomaro and Desmond said Johnson was more of a “midlevel” member of the ring, who pooled his money with other heroin dealers to buy large amounts of heroin, which he would in turn sell.

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