Thirty People Accused in Large-Scale Heroin Trafficking Ring
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 13, 2011|
A federal grand jury returned a 110-count indictment against 30 people who are accused of running a large-scale heroin trafficking ring that brought the drugs from various points in the United States to Northeast Ohio and in turn distributed the heroin throughout Greater Cleveland, Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; Stephen Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI; and Michael McGrath, Chief, Cleveland Division of Police, announced today.
The organization sometimes used violence to collect their drug debts and control their territory, according to the indictment. They utilized stash houses on East 99th Street in Cleveland to sell heroin in that neighborhood, and also sold a large quantity of drugs from an apartment in North Olmsted, according to the indictment.
Heroin seizures have more than tripled in this district over the past five years, Dettelbach said. This case, like others our office has done, underscores that the threat posed by heroin is not limited to specific cities or neighborhoods.
The Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force remains committed to the dismantlement of organizations responsible for the distribution of illegal drugs in Cleveland and the greater Cleveland area, Anthony said. Todays takedown is another example of what can be accomplished when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies combine their expertise and unique talents.
McGrath said, This is another example of the collaborative effort of the many law enforcement agencies working together to identify and arrest those individuals who are responsible for delivering this poison to our communities.
The investigation initially targeted local heroin trafficker Rayshawn Ligon, who was responsible for selling drugs throughout the Greater Cleveland area, but ultimately uncovered a large-scale, multi-person conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and crack cocaine with activity in Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, and California.
Ligon’s main assistants in his drug distribution network were his father, two brothers, a cousin, and his girlfriend, all charged in the indictment.
The organization sometimes transported the drugs by using human “mules” who ingested the heroin after it was wrapped in balloons. People sometimes ingested as many as 30 balloons of heroin, according to the indictment.
The organization also utilized “testers”—heroin addicts who sampled heroin in order to tell the dealers the strength and purity of the drug, so they knew how much to charge for it and/or how much they could dilute it, according to the indictment.
The allegations detailed in the indictment stretch from February through September 2010. Those charged in the indictment are:
Rayshawn Ligon, aka Dirty Ray, age 30, of North Olmsted, Ohio; Larry Neal, age 39, of Chicago, Illinois; Braulio Diaz, aka Tony, age 42, of Chicago, Illinois; Dontoye Kevin Feelings, aka Tyrone Dion Patrick, aka Anthony, age 37, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Travon Williams, aka Little D, age 29, of Cleveland, Ohio; Van Herron, age 29, of Cleveland, Ohio; Ernest Harris, age 58, of Cleveland, Ohio; Divaughn Ligon, aka Lou, age 24, of Cleveland, Ohio; Leonard Cole, aka Scooter, age 26, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Julius Carson, Jr., aka OG, age 51, of Cleveland, Ohio; Kyron Marlin, age 35, of Euclid, Ohio; Niakena K. Heard, aka Kentae, age 33, of Cleveland, Ohio; Ivan Harris, aka Michael Fannin, age 33, of Cleveland, Ohio; Terence C. Hester, age 20, of Cleveland, Ohio; Perry Avery, Jr., age 30, of East Cleveland, Ohio; Shertarra Catron, aka TT, age 24, of Cleveland, Ohio; Jason Morgan, aka Booty, age 31, of Cleveland, Ohio; William Efford, age 27, of Cleveland, Ohio; Earl King, age 31, of Cleveland, Ohio; Darnell Haynes, aka Fu-Fu, age 20, of Cleveland, Ohio; Michael Fason, aka PT, age 30, of Euclid, Ohio; Leonard Young, aka Snoop, age 32, of Cleveland, Ohio; James Henry, aka Hurk, age 28, of Cleveland, Ohio; Vincent Price, age 26, of Cleveland, Ohio; Jamel McHaney, aka Gangster Nate, age 25, of Cleveland, Ohio; Stetson White, aka KT, age 24, of Cleveland, Ohio; Ruby Seagraves, age 34, of Lakewood, Ohio; Tekora Madden, aka TK, age 32, of Seven Hills, Ohio; Ricardo Brashers, aka Rico, age 39, of Beachwood, Ohio; and Veronica Jordan, age 31, of South Euclid, Ohio, with violations of the federal narcotics, firearms and money laundering laws.
Count 1 of the indictment charges 27 of the 30 defendants (excluding Brashers, Madden, and Jordan) with a nearly year-long conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute at least one or more kilograms of heroin, at least 500 grams or more of cocaine and at least 28 or more grams of cocaine base (crack).
Count 2 of the indictment charges Rayshawn Ligon, Madden, Brashers, and Avery with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute at least 50 or more kilograms of marijuana.
Counts 3-7 and 9 of the indictment charge Rayshawn Ligon with the distribution or possession with the intent to distribute various amounts of heroin.
Count 8 of the indictment charges Rayshawn Ligon’s brother, Divaughn Ligon, a three-time previously convicted felon, with illegally possessing a .45 caliber pistol.
Count 10 of the indictment charges Rayshawn Ligon and Jordan, a local bank teller, with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Counts 11-106 of the indictment charge each defendant (except Jordan) individually with the use of a communication facility (a telephone) to facilitate a drug trafficking offense.
Counts 107-109 of the indictment charge Rayshawn Ligon, Neal, Diaz, and Carson with traveling in interstate commerce (between Cleveland and Chicago) to facilitate the conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.
Count 110 of the indictment charges White with the distribution of heroin.
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 unique 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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Pinjuh following a one year investigation code named “Operation Big Squeeze.” The investigation was conducted by agents and task force officers of the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force (NOLETF). The investigation revealed that Neal, a Chicago resident, obtained heroin from a Chicagobased Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization run by Braulio Diaz, and also from Dontoye Kevin Feelings, a suspected Los Angeles gang member residing in Minnesota, according to the indictment.
Neal would then transport the drugs to the Greater Cleveland area where he distributed them to Rayshawn Ligon and Ernest Harris. Despite obtaining significant amounts of heroin from Neal, evidence revealed that Rayshawn Ligon also purchased heroin locally in Cleveland from several different suppliers including Van Herron, Kyron Marlin, Leonard Cole, Ivan Harris, Travon Williams and Niakena Heard, according to the indictment.
Rayshawn Ligon had numerous conversations purchasing or attempting to purchase various amounts of heroin from these charged co-conspirators. Some of these alternate suppliers also purchased drugs from Rayshawn Ligon on various occasions, according to the indictment. Rayshawn Ligon also purchased cocaine and/or crack cocaine from Terence C. Hester, who then purchased heroin from Ligon, according to the indictment.
Ligon also had several marijuana suppliers (including an individual in California who is still unidentified). Locally, Rayshawn Ligon obtained large amounts of marijuana from Ricardo Brashers and Tekora Madden, according to the indictment.
Agents learned that Rayshawn Ligon distributed the majority of the heroin, cocaine and crack to Divaughn Ligon (his brother); Leonard Cole; Julius Carson, Jr. (his father); Kyron Marlin; Terence C. Hester; Perry Avery, Jr. (his cousin); Shertarra Catron (his girlfriend); Jason Morgan (his brother); William Efford; Earl King; Darnell Haynes; Michael Fason; Leonard Young; James Henry; Vincent Price; Jamel McHaney; Stetson White; and Ruby Seagraves. These individuals purchased drugs from Rayshawn Ligon and redistributed the drugs to their various customers. Some of these individuals also traded drugs with Rayshawn Ligon, according to the indictment.
Finally, evidence established that Rayshawn Ligon was obtaining advice and assistance in laundering his drug proceeds from Veronica Jordan, a local bank teller.
During the investigation, over a half kilogram of heroin, with a street value in excess of $70,000 and thousands of dollars worth of marijuana were either purchased or seized from the conspirators. The agents also seized an illegal .45 caliber pistol belonging to Divaughn Ligon.
The NOLETF is a long standing multi-agency task force comprised of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Cleveland Division of Police, Cleveland Heights Police Department (CHPD), Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), Euclid Police Department (EPD), Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Police Department, Willoughby Hills Police Department, Strongsville Police Department (SPD), University Heights Police Department (UHPD), and Shaker Heights Police Department (SHPD). The NOLETF is also one of the initial Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiatives. The HIDTA Program supports and helps coordinate numerous Ohio drug task forces in their efforts to eliminate or reduce drug-trafficking in the State of Ohio.
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.