Eight people indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl pills in Northwest Ohio

(STL.News) – Eight people were indicted in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl pills in Northwest Ohio.

Leonardo Espino, 48, of Holland; Peter Martinez, 29, Tony Nichols, 47, Ramon Ochoa, 43 all of Oregon, Ohio; Thomas Espino, 42, Christopher Faust, 36 all of Toledo; Glendon Patrick, 40 of Fremont, Ohio; and Jose Luis Betancourt-Ponce, 46, of Mexico, are all charged with conspiracy to distribute with intent to distribute controlled substances, including fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.  Thomas Espino is also charged with possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

The Espino drug trafficking organization is allegedly responsible for multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine and heroin as well as tens of thousands of fentanyl pills to Northwest Ohio.  The group is also believed to have distributed drugs to New York City, Chicago, and North Carolina, according to court documents.

Leonardo Espino is the alleged head of the organization and coordinates directly with a source of supply for drugs in Mexico.  Thomas Espino is the principal party responsible for drug distribution and obtaining payments, which are then returns to suppliers in Mexico. Nichols owns Nichols Automotive at 460 East Broadway, which is the group’s primary meeting place.  He also distributed multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and large amounts of fentanyl pills to others, according to court documents.

Faust distributed heroin in Toledo and also made wire transfers to pay suppliers in Mexico.  Martinez distributed cocaine and fentanyl in the Toledo area.  Ochoa transported drugs and cash for members of the organization.  Patrick distributed pills for the group and transported heroin and cash, according to court documents.

Prosecutors are seeking to forfeit six firearms and ammunition seized from 1619 Albert Street in Toledo, six firearms and ammunition seized from 2649 Hayden Street in Toledo and one firearm and ammunition seized from 460 East Broadway Street in Toledo as part of the investigation, according to court documents.

“This group is responsible for bringing large amounts of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl into Northwest Ohio, then shipping the profits back to Mexico,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said.  “This is occurring at the same time our neighbors continue to die from overdoses.  We will continue to do all we can to choke off the supply of these deadly drugs.”

“This is a significant blow to a major drug trafficking organization operating in the Toledo, Ohio area,” said Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin.  “These actions make Toledo and the surrounding community safer by taking a significant amount of drugs off the street and bringing criminals with ties to violent drug trafficking organizations to justice.”

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.  In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the case.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas P. Weldon and Gene Crawford.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  Defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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