Middletown police special operations officers along with county, state and federal law enforcement agencies announced Thursday the conclusion of a yearlong investigation into a large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering operation that stretched from Middletown throughout Ohio and extended as far as the West Coast.
According to the city officials, the investigation gained ground when, in August 2017, the Middletown Special Operations Division, along with Ohio State Highway Patrol, seized five kilograms, or about 11 pounds, of heroin and fentanyl. The drugs seized that day had a street value of $1.4 million, and the investigation traced the source to drug trafficking by the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.
During the entire investigation, which included the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Warren County Drug Task Force, Cincinnati police, the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI divisions in Cincinnati, Cleveland and San Diego, large quantities of drugs, money and weapons were seized.
As a result of the federal investigation and seizures, a federal grand jury has charged 12 individuals in a narcotics and money laundering conspiracy in a superseding indictment unsealed in Cincinnati on Thursday. Members of the group allegedly distributed fentanyl from Mexico in Middletown and sent proceeds back to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.
In addition, 40 defendants have been charged in San Diego, and additional defendants have been charged in Columbus, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Kansas and the Eastern District of Washington.
Those charged in the Cincinnati case include:
- Jose Chavez-Meraz Chema, 55, Mexico
- Rolando Chavez-Garcia, 24. Mexico
- Favrisio Orozco-Meraz Favi, aka Gordo and Gordito, 34, Mexico
- Raul Trejo Duende, 52, Middletown
- Donte Holdbrook Jay, 24, Middletown
- Mariela Penaloza, 25, Cleveland
- Charleston Quinn Buddy, aka Buddy Rowe, 34, Mason
- Frank Frazier, Jr., 24, Middletown,
- Jesus Diaz Chuy, Chewey, 47, Ontario, Calif.
- Jettie Bailey, 23, Middletown
- Christopher Watkins, 23, Trenton
- Courtney Bailey 24, Middletown
The superseding indictment details that the Ohio drug trafficking organization primarily conducted fentanyl sales in Middletown and received the narcotics from Mexico via Chavez-Meraz. The drugs would initially enter the United States at locations in California and Arizona, where “drug mules” would then retrieve the drugs for transport to southern Ohio.
When a sizeable amount of drug proceeds had been collected, the co-conspirators would arrange bulk cash transports back to Mexico, officials said. Investigators witnessed at least seven bulk cash pick-ups within the Southern District of Ohio, six on Tivoli Lane in Cincinnati and one at a Comfort Inn and Suites in West Chester. Transactions ranged from $25,000 to more than $180,000.