Three men arrested Tuesday in Warren now face federal drug charges


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The three men arrested Tuesday and accused of possessing 25 pounds of cocaine in Warren are now charged federally with offenses that could result in long prison sentences.

Each man was ordered Friday to remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday before Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert. All three had initial appearances in federal court Thursday.

Their scheme purportedly unraveled as federal agents followed the drug shipment from Columbiana to a plaza in Warren and then to a home on the southeast side.

Larone Williams, 45, of Burton Street Southeast, Warren; Dockery Cleveland, 45, of Las Vegas; and Menford McCain, 33, of Oak Street Southwest, Warren, were each charged Wednesday in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics and were transferred from the Trumbull County jail to the Mahoning County Justice Center.

An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Youngstown says investigators were alerted earlier this month that a cocaine shipment was headed to Warren from Compton, Calif., inside a 2002 two-door Volkswagen on a commercial vehicle carrier.

On Monday, a special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation also assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force and a police dog traveled to Columbiana, where the commercial carrier was parked.

The dog indicated positive for narcotics, so agents sought and received a search warrant and authorization from two Columbiana County Common Pleas Court judges to install a global-positioning tracking device on the vehicle.

Agents then removed 10 kilogram-sized packages of suspected cocaine and two smaller packages from the vehicle and replaced all but one with fake packages. One of the original packages was placed back in the vehicle, the affidavit said.

The vehicle was then transported on the commercial carrier to the plaza at the corner of Youngstown and Ridge roads in Warren, where DEA and Warren police conducted surveillance and watched Williams and Cleveland take the Volkswagen after it had been unloaded from the carrier and drive it to Williams’ home on Burton and park it in a detached garage.

Williams and Cleveland left the house about a half hour later, went to Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and left the arena at 12:25 a.m. Surveillance was maintained on them and the house, and no one entered the house while they were gone, the affidavit said.

At 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, McCain arrived at the house with a black backpack and spent 10 minutes in the garage, then entered the house and left 20 minutes later on a bicycle with his backpack heavy and full, police said.

A Warren police officer, in radio communication with the DEA, said he observed McCain at Arbor Avenue and Milton Street Southeast and attempted to halt McCain, but he ran. He dropped the backpack while scaling a fence and was found later hiding in the rear of a pickup truck at 1326 Central Parkway. A large amount of cash – about $100,000, according to Warren police – was in the backpack.

Using a search warrant from Warren Municipal Court, DEA task force members entered the Burton Street residence, finding Williams and Cleveland and the bogus drugs, some of which appeared to have been cut open.

As an agent looked at the items, Williams said, “Them are fake,” the affidavit said.

Task force members found a handgun, surgical masks, electronic scales and other drug-related items in the house.

A person convicted of trafficking more than 11 pounds of cocaine faces a federal prison sentence of 10 years to life, according to a chart on the DEA website. The sentence is five to 40 years in prison if the amount is less than 11 pounds.

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