Two arrested after package deliver to Youngstown home, then taken to Girard
By Joe Gorman
A man who ordered more than $38,000 of fentanyl from China tracked the package on his phone like someone would track an order placed for something online, a federal affidavit says.
The package made its way from China until it was delivered by an undercover federal agent to a home on Judson Avenue on Wednesday, according to an affidavit filed in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio in the arrests of Michael Lawrence, 43, of Youngstown and Dainon Jones, 37, of Girard.
Before the package was delivered, agents were able to place a device inside that would emit a tone when the package was opened, according to the affidavit.
Lawrence was arraigned last week before U.S. Magistrate Judge George Limbert and is free on $20,000 unsecured bond.
Jones waived a detention hearing and is being held.
The case is now expected to be presented before a federal grand jury.
There was more than 273 grams of fentanyl in the package, according to the affidavit.
Lt. Jeff Solic of the Austintown Police Department, who also heads up the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, which took part in the investigation, said that often in the Mahoning Valley, drug dealers will sell fentanyl and claim that it is heroin.
Solic said the average cost of a gram of heroin is between $120 and $140. At $140 a gram, the fentanyl in the package was worth more than $38,000.
But Solic said that four pounds of chemicals used to dilute the fentanyl and increase its volume were also found in a home in Girard. That increased the street value of the fentanyl to almost $254,000.
The affidavit said the package first popped up to law enforcement Nov. 20, when Homeland Security personnel became aware of a package with a Shanghai, China, return address that was addressed to someone in Youngstown.
The address matched another return address that other packages with heroin came from that were being delivered to Seattle, Detroit and New York City.
The package was held at a Warrendale, Pa., postal facility and then shipped to Cleveland. It was searched, then tested and found to contain more than 273 grams of fentanyl, the affidavit said.
Two search warrants were then obtained, one to do a “controlled delivery” of the package, or a delivery with an undercover officer delivering the package, and a second one to install a GPS device inside the package so it could be tracked.
After the package was delivered to the home on Judson Avenue, Jones got the package from the person, drove to Idlewood Avenue where he picked up Lawrence, then to a gas station, where Lawrence got out of the car, took a bus to the Western Reserve Transit Authority station, was picked up again by Jones and then the two drove to a home on East Wilson Avenue in Girard.
It was there the package was opened, the device inside broadcast its tone and law-enforcement officials moved in.
The two tried to run away but were caught a short time later.
Reports said Lawrence was paid $100 by Jones to wire money to China for him. Jones admitted to ordering something else from China, and when the package was on the way, he received the shipping information on his phone and was able to track the package as it made its way from China to the United States, the affidavit said.
The affidavit said the Girard home where the package was opened belonged to Jones, and he allowed it to be searched and also admitted to having marijuana and heroin there.