MIDDLETOWN, OH (FOX19) - Federal officials have charged 12 individuals in an international narcotics and money laundering conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said this indictment puts cartel leaders on notice.
"Mexican cartel leaders who provide drugs to drug dealers here should know they are not safe from our law enforcement efforts," Glassman said.
Members of the group allegedly distributed fentanyl from Mexico in Middletown, Ohio and sent proceeds back to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.
The investigation began when undercover FBI agents in San Diego learned that a known Sinaloa Cartel money-laundering boss, Jose Lopez-Albarran, coordinated and conducted multiple bulk cash pickups from a drug trafficking organization within the Southern District of Ohio.
Investigators said they witnessed at least seven bulk cash pick-ups, six on Tivoli Lane in Cincinnati and one at a Comfort Inn and Suites in West Chester. Each transaction involved $25,000 to more than $180,000.
From March 28 to May 4, 2017, investigators observed multiple fentanyl sales in Middletown, several of them in exchange for as much as $2,400 in a single sale.
The investigation led to a big bust in August 2017 when officers seized five kilograms of heroin and fentanyl worth an estimated street value of $1.4 million.
The following are accused of distributing 400 grams of a substance containing fentanyl:
- Jose Chavez-Meraz
- Rolando Chavez-Garcia
- Favrisio Orozco-Meraz
- Raul Trejo
- Donte Holdbrook
- Mariela Penaloza
- Charleston Quinn
- Frank Frazier Jr.
- Jesus Diaz
- Jettie Bailey
- Christopher Watkins
- Courtney Bailey
One of the suspects, 23-year-old Christopher Watkins, was an auxiliary police officer with the Seven Mile Police Department. It is alleged that Watkins was recruited because his law enforcement experience and to help drug mules avoid being detected.
More than 45 additional defendants have been charged in connection to this case in other cities and districts.