The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said this area served as an organized drug pipeline between New York City and san Diego, with ties to those violent drug cartels in Mexico.
Police, task force units and the FBI were out looking for suspects on Thursday after a 101-count federal indictment was unsealed following an 18-month investigation. Twenty-eight people now face charges, and more than half of them are from this area.
Authorities compared the ring to a wholesale warehouse for drugs, with the suspects allegedly dealing in a wide range of narcotics, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, often in large quantities.
“This drug trafficking organization operated almost like a Costco. Moving wholesale, bulk and retail amounts of heroin, cocaine, crack, marijuana and meth from one coast to the other and then eventually to Youngstown, where it was sold on the streets,” said U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach.
In November, 13 pounds of methamphetamine was provided by a Mexican to a subject and delivered to Youngstown. One of those reportedly involved was Brian Greene of Youngstown, who investigators said was killed in a drive-by shooting a year ago.
After he was killed in 2010, the indictment alleges the organization continued in his absence. Also named in the indictment is former Youngstown State University football standout Shawn Patton and former Youngstown firefighter Andre Johnson.
Local suspects also include: Michael D. Cylar, 41, of Austintown; Torrey M. Harris, 39, of Youngstown; Marlan B. Everson, 39, of Youngstown; Toye J. Larry, Jr., of Youngstown; Michael J. Hamlett, 33, of Youngstown; Mychaelann DeFrank, 32, of Youngstown; Matthew J. Porter, 29, of Youngstown; Lashell D. Penson, 34, of Youngstown; Victor M. Higgins, 39, of Youngstown; and Sherman T. Sanders, 30, of Girard.
Local leaders said the drug ring preyed on those who live and work in the community.
“I’ve gotten phone calls from the residents that I serve and the residents of Youngstown. They want to say ‘thank you’ because they feel safer now,” Councilman Paul Drennen told Dettelbach during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
“All of us who have been in this community for any length of time understand that this in an effort that must continue,” said Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams.
And while authorities admit the case won’t shut down trafficking in the area, it may leave a lasting impact.
“It sends a strong message to people who are making decisions about whether or not they’re going to try to spread this poison here in Youngstown. And the message is you’re not welcome here and there’s a cost to pay,” Dettelbach said.
It’s the second time in two weeks there has been a major bust in Youngstown. Earlier this month, 23 were indicted in a gang ring originating on the city’s South Side involving the street gang LSP. Arrests are still being made in that case.