Busts like Monday’s seizure in Clark County of $3.6 million of what Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said was “pure” fentanyl illustrate the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force is a prototype, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine attended a Tuesday press conference to announce the arrest of four men — including at least one with ties to a Mexican drug cartel — and the seizure of just under 20 pounds of fentanyl, more than 100 pounds of marijuana and $150,000 in cash.
“This task force in Montgomery County is a model for the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. “We have now going five separate task forces that are similar in the state. … We should have at least 10 of these.”
Information from DeWine’s office, released immediately after Tuesday’s news conference, said the men were arrested after a series of traffic stops and the search of a residence on Prentice Drive in New Carlisle.
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The fentanyl was found in the dash of a vehicle, while the marijuana was located at a house, Plummer said.
“We’ll never know whose lives are being saved because this is off the street,” DeWine said. “But I guarantee you a lot of lives have been saved by what the men and women of the task force (have) done in removing these drugs from the street.”
Those arrested were: Aguilar Reyes-Espinosa, 43, of New Carlisle plus Omar Alejandro Cantu-Garcia, 28, David Guillermo Cantu-Garcia, 30 and Pedro Medina, 40, all of Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
The address where three of the suspects were arrested matches up with the Extended Stay America hotel on Miller Lane in Butler Twp.
All four had initial appearances Wednesday in Dayton’s U.S. District Court on a count of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl.
That charge carries with it a minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in prison and up to a $10 million fine. A federal prosecutor said more charges are likely. All four will be held in the Shelby County Jail and are scheduled for Monday detention hearings and June 27 preliminary hearings.
Plummer has said that the bulk task force’s aim is to stop drugs entering the Miami Valley and/or to stop cash and weapons from leaving it.
“My hat goes off to this group,” Plummer said. “They’re constantly working. They put their lives in danger to protect the citizens of Montgomery County.”
The bust took place primarily in New Carlisle, and the lack of detail about that involvement drew the ire of Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett.
“Not sure how Montgomery County (gets) the glory for this,” Burchett posted on Facebook. “This took place in Clark County just to let our Community know.”
Burchett later added in response to a comment on her post: “I am not one bit happy.”
During the news conference, Plummer named Miami Twp., the Ohio State Highway patrol, Montgomery County, Homeland Security and Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation as task force partners.
On Wednesday, Plummer said Clark County is not part of the bulk task force, that Burchett pulled deputies off the RANGE task force and that her personnel were involved for one hour Monday for a vehicle stop and search. Burchett could not be reached for further comment on Wednesday.
Plummer said earlier this year that from 2014 through 2017, the RANGE and bulk task forces have combined to seize 238.84 pounds of cocaine, 3.1 pounds of crack, 239.40 pounds of heroin/fentanyl, 4,653 pounds of marijuana and 144 pounds of methamphetamine.
“If you look at the numbers of the drugs that have been taken off, it’s an excellent job,” DeWine said. “And they’re going right at the members of the cartel.”
Plummer wouldn’t elaborate on the investigation because he said law enforcement is still working to arrest other people, but he did credit detectives.
“They have a lot of secrets I can’t share with the public, but they’re very good at what they do,” Plummer said. “The stats show that.”
DeWine said the Miami Valley bulk task force — and those from central Ohio, Toledo, Lima/Allen County, Mahoning Valley, Cuyahoga County and southwest Ohio — are fighting the cartels every day.
“If you want a successful business, we suggest you take it somewhere else,” Plummer said, point out that more than $7 million and $32 million in product has been seized since the county’s two task forces began in 2014. “Because our people are in the game to win.”