Drug mules and stash houses: How a former Middie athlete operated a major drug ring

A former Middletown athlete could spend the rest of his life in a federal prison for his part in a drug trafficking ring with ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

FIRST REPORT: Ex-Middie athlete to plead guilty to federal drug trafficking charges

Donte Holdbrook, 25, signed an agreement on Aug. 13 to enter a guilty to plea to a single count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin, which was among the charges he was originally indicted on earlier this year.

In the agreement, Holdbrook admitted “that he is, in fact, guilty of this offense and will so advise the court” at his plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

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According to the statement of facts that Holdbrook signed on Sept. 7, he admitted:

• That he and the 11 others indicted knowingly, willfully, intentionally, and unlawfully possessed with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl and 1 kilogram or more of heroin.

• That the conspiracy had a principal goal of obtaining as much money and other things of value as possible through the repeated acquisition, preparation and sale of fentanyl and heroin in Middletown and that they used cell phones and motor vehicles to facilitate their business.

• The fentanyl and heroin were manufactured and/or processed in Mexico then illegally transported to the U.S. The fentanyl and heroin were processed, cut, packaged and stored in stash houses located in and around Middletown.

ExploreMORE: A Middletown apartment was a central location for international drug distribution, according to indictments

• The money was used for the lifestyles of the co-conspirators and to maintain the flow of drugs from Mexico and other places inside and outside the Southern District of Ohio.

• That he worked with a contact to transfer the heroin and fentanyl from Mexico via California and Arizona to Middletown.

• That he sent two trusted associates in a “drug mule” vehicle to California and Arizona to pick up the shipment. The drugs were concealed in the vehicle’s gas tank.

• That when the drugs arrived in Middletown, he unloaded the car and then stored and distributed the drugs around Middletown.

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• That when his sub-contractors accumulated a sizable amount of cash from the fentanyl and heroin sales, he and another person began the process of smuggling the bulk cash back to Mexico. He also admitted to laundering the conspiracy’s bulk cash proceeds to fund its supply of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and fentanyl.

• Holdbrook said he worked with the other co-conspirators and arranged and coordinated seven bulk cash pick-ups as well as six “drug mule trips” in 2017. He also said that one of the “drug mule” trips returned empty-handed.

Another of the co-conspirators, Raul Trego, has already appeared in court for a plea hearing where he entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. Trego is facing up to 20 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine.

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