CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested three men they said are part of a “significant” drug trafficking organization in the city of Cleveland.
Federal law enforcement officials said the three men allegedly brought about 1,100 pounds of cocaine from Mexico to be distributed in the Cleveland area and sent about $13 million in drug trafficking proceeds back to Mexico.
“Drug trafficking organizations target communities like Cleveland because they mistakenly assume nobody is paying attention,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler. “To those drug traffickers, both foreign and domestic, who think that our communities and neighborhoods here in Northern Ohio are open for your businesses – know that we are watching, we are paying attention, we will act and we will not stand for it.”
Christopher Ficklin, 49, of Cleveland Heights, and Robert Atkinson, 41, of Cleveland, were arrested in the Cleveland area Tuesday and David Gomez-Orrantia, 41, of Mexico, was arrested at the U.S. Mexico border this past weekend.
Federal law enforcement officials said the investigation has been ongoing for years and is still ongoing, but this bust made a “large impact” on their organization.
According to federal law enforcement officials, the cocaine was hidden in trucks and vehicles fitted with traps and secret compartments and shipped from Mexico to a warehouse owned by Ficklin on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland.
Ficklin then allegedly redistributed the drugs to Atkinson and others to be further distributed in the area.
The drug money was then transported back to Mexico using the same vehicles with the secret compartments and traps, federal law enforcement officials said.
Ficklin, Atkinson and Gomez-Orrantia are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, various additional counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, international money laundering and use of a communications facility to facilitate a felony drug offense.
Officials added more arrests will happen.
“Thanks to the professionalism and diligence of the agents and officers working this case, we have disrupted an organization that coordinated not only the delivery of significant amounts of cocaine into Cleveland, but the delivery of drug proceeds into the hands of their Mexican source of supply,” said Kent R. Kleinschmidt, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit Field Division. “These arrests are a testament to the coordinated efforts between state, local and federal law enforcement. We will continue to maximize all of our combined resources to bring those who traffic drugs into our communities to justice.”
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