People Indicted in Ohio Cocaine Conspiracy
Twelve defendants have been indicted in a major drug trafficking conspiracy in which large shipments of cocaine were flown by private chartered airplanes from Texas to Cleveland, federal law enforcement officials announced today.
At least 24 kilograms of cocaine and $157,500 in cash were seized as part of the investigation. The conspiracy, which also included shipments of cocaine to Cleveland from Atlanta and a suburb of Chicago, included nearly 20 flights between August 2009 and March 2012, according to the indictment.
“This group is accused of using private airplanes to bring piles of cocaine into Cleveland,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “This case is a great example of law enforcement working together to choke off the supply of drugs that hit our streets.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert Corso said: “The investigation has successfully taken down a major cocaine trafficking organization operating in Northern Ohio. These indictments illustrate that no matter how creative drug traffickers attempt to be in order to avoid detection, when there is cooperation and communication among law enforcement agencies, conspiracies such as this will eventually be identified and eliminated.”
“This investigation is a sterling example of how federal, state and local law enforcement were able to successfully dismantle a major narcotics smuggling organization in the Cleveland area," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI for Michigan and Ohio. "HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to aggressively target and takedown group who are dispensing poison into our communities."
In addition to the conspiracy charge, defendants William Mangum, Jr., Virginia Perez, Rachele Lynn Munoz, Nora Flores, Errick Phillips, and Johnny S. Phillips are also charged with interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise for trips they took between Ohio and other states such as Texas, Illinois, and Georgia as part of the drug trafficking enterprise. Johnny S. Phillips, Richard A. Born, and Sharon Manchook are also charged with distributing cocaine on two occasions, while Errick Phillips and Mark Anderson are charged with possession with intent to distribute amounts of cocaine on two other occasions.
The indictment describes a conspiracy in which large amounts of cocaine were flown in multiple trips to Cleveland from Laredo, Texas using private chartered airplanes. The cocaine was delivered to Johnny S. Phillips and Errick Phillips. The proceeds from the cocaine were then flown back to the suppliers in Laredo, Texas, according to the indictment.
Approximately 13 kilograms of cocaine were seized in February 2010 at the airport in Laredo, Texas, that was scheduled to be delivered to Cleveland. Cocaine was also obtained from suppliers in Illinois. In August 2010, approximately seven kilograms of cocaine that were supposed to be delivered from Illinois to Cleveland were seized in Michigan from two couriers. In January 2011, approximately four kilograms of cocaine were seized from Errick Phillips as he was traveling back from Illinois to Cleveland. Investigators also seized over $157,500 in drug proceeds from a courier in December 2010, who was believed to be traveling from Cleveland to Texas, according to the indictment.
The cocaine obtained from these multiple locations was then distributed through a network of dealers in the Cleveland, Ohio, area to lower-level dealers and users, according to the indictment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd and Duncan Brown. The case was investigated through the combined efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Marshal’s Service (USMS), Ohio Highway Patrol, Erie County Prosecutor’s Office, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Narcotics Agency, Cleveland Police Department, Cleveland Heights Police Department, Euclid Police Department, Lyndhurst Police Department, North Royalton Police Department, South Euclid Police Department, and Westlake Police Department.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal records, if any, the defendants’ roles in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentences will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases they will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.