Tuesday, November 1, 2016
By Joe Gorman
Arrest warrants were served Monday for 20 people who were secretly indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury last week, charging them with bringing drugs into the Youngstown area.
Of the 20 indicted, 15 were in custody by 4 p.m. Monday. Sixteen defendants are from Youngstown, two are from Campbell and two are from California.
The case was presented by the state attorney general’s office and the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office. The indictments came after an investigation by the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force with help from the attorney general’s Heroin Unit.
Dan Tierney, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, deferred comment to task force members who investigated the case. They did not return messages seeking comments.
County Assistant Prosecutor Martin Desmond, who helped prepare the case, also said he deferred commenting because state attorneys will be taking the lead in presenting the case, but he did thank them for their assistance.
Of the 20 people indicted, six defendants are facing first- degree felony charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity because they have been termed as leading members of the drug ring. Those six defendants are Jonathan Centeno, 31, of Campbell; Edward Blackmon, 38, of Youngstown; Aaron McGuire, 30, of Youngstown; Edward McElroy, 31, of Youngstown; Wayne Martin, 35, of Youngstown; and Jose Suarez, 36, of Youngstown.
According to the attorney general’s office, the ring was supplied with drugs that came from California, Michigan and Arizona and were sometimes shipped by mail to the home addresses of the members, who in turn divided the drugs for street-level dealers to sell.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said the leaders of the ring would make money off selling marijuana, and then invest some of that money in obtaining heroin to sell.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” DeWine said in a news release. “State and local authorities are committed to taking down the big players in these trafficking organizations, which is exactly what we did here today.”
Besides the corrupt-activity charge, other charges include trafficking in heroin, trafficking in marijuana, attempted trafficking in marijuana, complicity to trafficking in marijuana, aggravated trafficking in drugs, permitting drug abuse, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana and possession of drugs.
In the indictment, prosecutors also asked for the forfeiture of a 9 mm handgun, a .38-caliber handgun, a .44-caliber handgun, three phones and $420 in cash.
This is the second time members of the attorney general’s office have worked with the county on a major drug case. In 2015, they helped to investigate and indict 37 people for their use of heroin or the trafficking of heroin in the Youngstown area. All but one of those have had their cases disposed of, and that defendant went on the run and has yet to be found.