Authorities: Tri-State Drug Ring Was Run From Prison
By Mike Perleberg
Indiana and Ohio law enforcement collaborated in the dismantling of a tri-state drug ring operated from a prison in Lebanon, Ohio. Photo provided by Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
(Cincinnati, Oh.) – 14 arrests, 35 pounds of heroin, 18 pounds of cocaine, and $600,000.
Those numbers are the results of a multi-state, multi-agency drug investigation detailed during a press conference among authorities from Indiana and Ohio Friday at the Hamilton County Justice Center. The agencies involved included the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Regional Enforcement Narcotics Unit, Indiana State Police, and the Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office.
The work done by the officers involved has resulted in a “significant disruption” to the drug trade in the tri-state, said Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard.
Over the past 12 months, RENU has been using a confidential informant to build its case. Those detectives learned that two inmates at the London Correctional Institution in London, Ohio were operating the expansive drug ring.
According to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil, the inmates with ties to Mexico allegedly developed relationship with fellow inmates who were southwest Ohio drug traffickers. Other dealers and distributors outside the prison would be provided instructions for transporting the drugs, often via phone calls from prison.
“All phone calls are recorded at correctional facilities and even though they used code words we were able to determine what they were talking about through these phone conversations,” said Negangard.
Those code names, according to investigators, included sports teams. “Pittsburg Steelers” was code for heroin. “Indianapolis Colts” was swapped for cocaine. For marijuana, the suspects used “Green Bay Packers.”
Investigators learned that many of the drugs were coming to the Cincinnati area from Chicago.
A Dayton, Ohio resident, Ronald Serna, would allegedly pick up the drugs in Greensburg, Indiana from Chicago area resident Luis R. Magallon. Last January, Indiana State Police conducted surveillance on a hotel off of I-74 in Greensburg. Serna and an accomplice, Kurt Holmes, 23, of Springdale, Ohio, left the hotel driving separate vehicles on the interstate towards Cincinnati.
Troopers initiated a traffic stop on I-74 in Dearborn County. Serna, 30, fled on foot and managed to escape at the time. The vehicle he was driving was later found to have 8.8 pounds of heroin hidden in a secret compartment.
Magallon was arrested at the hotel. Serna was captured later in January. Holmes, Negangard said, faced minor charges because investigators did not believe he had knowledge of the drug transport.
Negangard said he was concerned to learn that much of the drug activity was being orchestrated from prison, but that transferring the suspects to an Indiana prison may make it more difficult for them.
“It’s an epidemic in the entire region,” Neil said. “We you have a daily jail population of 1,400 and on any given day you have 75 detainees that are testing positive for hepatitis C, where is this coming from? It’s coming from the exchange of dirty needles and STDs. There’s other evidence besides the crime in and of itself, the violence in our communities significantly correlated with the drug subculture. There’s a number of indicators that we have a problem.”