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

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Kate middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

An apartment on Aaron Drive was a key location in an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring for one of Mexico’s most notorious and powerful drug cartels, according to indictments unsealed on Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced the indictments of 12 people involved in a piece of a large-scale, multi-state fentanyl and heroin distribution operation that stretched across Ohio to the West Coast and back and connected to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is currently in federal custody in New York.

Seven of those indicted were from Butler and Warren counties, including an auxiliary Seven Mile police officer. 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.

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An apartment on Aaron Drive was a key location in an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring for one of Mexico’s most notorious and powerful drug cartels, according to indictments unsealed on Thursday, March 8, 2018. RICK McCRABB / STAFF

An apartment on Aaron Drive was a key location in an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring for one of Mexico’s most notorious and powerful drug cartels, according to indictments unsealed on Thursday, March 8, 2018. RICK McCRABB / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
An apartment on Aaron Drive was a key location in an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring for one of Mexico’s most notorious and powerful drug cartels, according to indictments unsealed on Thursday, March 8, 2018. RICK McCRABB / STAFF

Glassman said the investigation dismantled a large drug operation in Middletown and tracked the drugs back to the original source in Mexico.

Since the arrests, Glassman said there has been a noticeable decrease in fentanyl/heroin trafficking in Middletown.

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Glassman said the yearlong investigation started as a probe into money laundering in San Diego, from where bulk amounts of cash would be delivered to Mexico or other locations outside the U.S. Federal investigators followed the money, which led to various drug distribution operations and suppliers, including the one in Middletown. He said all but three of the defendants are in federal custody and that the other three defendants are being sought by U.S. and Mexican authorities.

According to the federal indictment that was unsealed and announced on Thursday, Frank Frazier Jr.’s apartment in the 2900 block of Aaron Drive was used as a “stash house” for the Donte Holdbrook drug trafficking organization that sold fentanyl and heroin to customers in the vicinity of Middletown. Another residence in the 4800 block of Holly Drive was also used to drop off the cross-country drug shipments.

The indictment alleges “fentanyl, heroin and other narcotic substances were processed, cut, packaged, and stored prior to distribution to members of the conspiracy and/or customers, in safe locations, known as stash houses, located in and around the city of Middletown, Ohio, and elsewhere in the Southern District of Ohio. The defendants and others used stash houses to manufacture, prepare, process and store fentanyl, heroin, fentanyl mixtures, heroin mixtures, narcotics-processing and packaging mate1ials, and monies obtained through the illegal sale of controlled substances, in order to avoid their detection.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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He talks about drug operations in Middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The indictment further alleged that Holdbrook coordinated the transfer of fentanyl and heroin from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel to Middletown and funneled or smuggled large amounts of bulk cash back to Mexico. 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.

Among the various charges in the indictment, the defendants are accused of distributing more than 400 grams of fentanyl and one gram of a mixed substance containing fentanyl.

Holdbrook allegedly used trusted associates as “drug mules” to pick up the drugs in California or Arizona, where the drugs would be placed inside the fuel tanks of their vehicles provided by Holdbrook and driven cross-country back to Middletown for distribution. One of those “drug mules” is alleged to be Christopher Watkins, an auxiliary Seven Mile police officer, who was recruited for his law enforcement knowledge, which Glassman said “was disturbing.”

Middletown police said the investigation gained ground when, in August 2017, the police Special Operations unit, 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.

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