CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced the success of a major undercover drug task force operation that took down 59 individuals and recovered large amounts of drugs and stolen guns.
The U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force, part of the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC), rooted out drug trafficking in southern Ohio with impressive results. The undercover effort encompassed the sheriff’s offices of Ross, Pickaway and Fayette counties as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and OOCIC offices.
“These drug busts were the equivalent of organized crime rings you’d see in the movies, not only taking profits but also lives,” Yost said. “Coordinated crime requires a cooperative effort, which is why our OOCIC partnerships that allow local law enforcement to work across county lines are so successful.”
The investigation focused on the trafficking of narcotics and stolen firearms, which led to grand jury indictments of 59 people in major drug trafficking organizations. The investigation netted 95 ounces of methamphetamine and 109 doses of hydrocodone as well as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and suboxone. Additionally, eight stolen firearms were seized.
“This criminal investigation was an example of a collaborative effort between local, regional and state agencies,” Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff said. “Often, organized criminal activity spans multiple counties and requires a multi-jurisdictional response. When committing to a long-term investigation such as this, we work closely with our partners to use our combined resources more efficiently and effectively.”
A total of 163 felony counts were issued, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, trafficking in drugs and possession of drugs. Combined, the offenses carry a potential maximum sentence of more than 1,000 years in prison.
“I would like to commend the efforts of the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force for their continued efforts to investigate and prosecute major drug dealers in their counties,” Ross County Sheriff George Lavender said. “The hours and effort that go into these types of investigations to indict and arrest major drug suppliers take a tremendous amount of time to reach this outcome. The subjects indicted and arrested are major suppliers of the drugs that are crippling our counties and causing drug-related deaths in our communities. I would like to thank the citizens of this community for sharing drug information with our agencies and for being patient while the operation played out.”
Said Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth: “The men and women who comprise the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force are commended for their unwavering commitment to fighting drugs on the front line. Member counties of the task force have long been partners in the struggle to curtail drug operations and find the drug dealers who prey upon our communities.
“Today's operation illustrates the objectives of the task force and furthers the unified collaboration of our counties in that ongoing struggle to halt the drug supply. Law enforcement constantly works to identify and investigate drug-related crimes. Undercover agents and road patrol deputies put their lives on the line to protect us and work diligently in our communities to bring criminals to justice. Agents could not be effective today without citizens willing to share what they observe in their neighborhoods. Together, we will continue that fight to rid our neighborhoods of criminal activity and hold criminals accountable.”
Partners assisting the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force in this investigation included Judy Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecutor’s Office; Jeff Marks, Ross County Prosecutor’s Office; Jess Weade, Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office; Karhlton Moore, executive director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services; as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s BCI Criminal Intelligence Unit and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit.