By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirteen people, nearly all from Ashtabula County, are named in a 42-count indictment that alleges they were part of an organized heroin distribution that operated in the area last year, law enforcement officials said Monday.
Drugs the group sold ultimately resulted in the July death of a 27-year-old Ashtabula woman, officials said.
Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced the unsealing of the indictment at a press conference at the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office in Jefferson. Joining him were representatives of different agencies involved in the months-long investigation, which was led by Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI and assisted by sheriff offices in Ashtabula and Cuyahoga counties, Ashtabula Police Department, Trumbull Ashtabula Group task force, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
“This is a very significant indictment” that netted people “doing real damage in Ashtabula,” Dettelbach said.
Law enforcement officials conducted raids, beginning around 6 a.m., that resulted in the arrests of 12 of the 13 people indicted, Dettelbach said. Still at large as of Monday afternoon is Jamarce “Jamie” Miller, 36, of Ashtabula, Dettelbach said.
Others named in the indictment include: Rayshawn Reed, 37, Ashtabula; Sherord Miller, 30, Ashtabula; Amanda Loving, 30, Geneva; Isaac Hawkins, 24, address unknown; Louis Snyder, 48, Ashtabula; James Robinson (also known as Marell Holley), 37, Ashtabula; Tricia Lewis, 35, Ashtabula; Joey Schmeisser, 30, address unknown; Kevin Fridrich, 28, Geneva; Reginald Bryant, 39, Euclid; Shaunci Osborne, 20, Ashtabula; and Laketha “Jay” Harris, 35, Ashtabula.
Many who were arrested this morning were immediately transported to Cleveland, where they were arraigned in federal court, officials said. Some may return to Ashtabula County Jail to await future court appearances.
Seized as a result of the investigation was more than $325,000 in cash, firearms and five vehicles used by the defendants, including two Cadillacs, according to a statement prepared by Dettelbach’s office.
At issue is a drug operation that ran between March and mid-August last year, according to the indictment. Federal officials say Reed arranged the delivery of “multiple kilogram quantities” heroin to northeast Ohio from Chicago. Once the drug arrived in the area, Reed then sold the product to “co-conspirators” that included Sherord Miller and Jamarce Miller. They in turn sold the drug to others, including some who were indicted, according to the indictment.
Eventually, the drug made its way to an Ashtabula woman who died of an overdose in an Ashtabula Township motel on July 7, officials said. The woman’s 7-year-old daughter, also in the motel room, called authorities.
The death could result in “potential sentencing enhancements” if the defendants are found guilty, Dettelbach said. The indictment spells out a number of counts, including:
• Allegations that Osborne and Sherord Miller used a safe deposit box to “store and conceal profits from the sale of heroin”
• Allegation that Rayshawn Reed possessed “with intent to distribute” 171 grams of heroin
• Allegations that each of the defendants used telephones to “facilitate a drug trafficking offense”
Law enforcement officials at the press conference said teamwork between agencies was a key component. Monday’s arrests resulted in the “complete dismantling” of a drug-trafficking organization, said Geno Corley, DEA resident agent. Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson said the indictments shows that while investigations can take time to complete, “we do make an impact and we do take these people off the streets.”
Many of the drug transactions involving the defendants took place in retail stores and hotel rooms “where law-abiding citizens spend their time,” Dettelbach said.
Law enforcement agencies will continue to work together to stem the heroin trade in northeast Ohio, officials said.
“The message is ‘If you use heroin, you’re risking your life,” Dettelbach said. “If you deal heroin, you’re risking the rest of your life.”