U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio
(216) 622-3600
September 14, 2015

Cleveland Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Trafficking Heroin, Robbing Rival Drug Dealers

The leader of a group that brought large shipments of heroin from Atlanta and Chicago and sold it around the East Side of Cleveland was sentenced to life in prison, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office.

Keith Ricks, 33, was convicted on nine counts following a jury trial earlier this year. The jury found that Ricks led a conspiracy that included scores of people, robbed rival drug dealers and used violence to control the sale of heroin in the neighborhood around St. Clair Avenue and East 117th Street.

“This defendant led a group responsible for thefts, violence and the distribution of dozens of pounds of heroin,” Dettelbach said. “He is a predator that needed to be taken out of the community.”

“Mr. Ricks is a violent drug dealer that deserves to be behind bars for a long time,” Anthony said. “The Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force works tirelessly to rid the streets of the most dangerous criminals and Keith Ricks definitely is one of them.”

Ricks and others obtained heroin from suppliers in Atlanta and transported the drugs to Cleveland by mail or car. He then distributed the heroin to other traffickers in Cleveland, according to court documents and trial testimony.

Ricks and others planned and committed burglaries and robberies from other drug dealers, customers, and each other. This was done to fund their drug trafficking, to obtain heroin and other drugs, and to collect drug debts. Ricks then sold the stolen heroin at discounted prices or used the stolen money to obtain heroin, according to court documents and trial testimony.

Ricks identified potential victims through a variety of ways, including targeting those who appeared to have expensive jewelry or cars or by using women to gather information about potential victims and report back to them. He sometimes used firearms or zipties to restrain victims, according to court documents and trial testimony.

“Ricks was the leader of a large and wide-ranging heroin conspiracy that involved dozens of people and distributed heroin to large parts of Cleveland,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew W. Shepherd wrote in the sentencing memo. “In addition to distributing heroin, members of the conspiracy committed robberies, thefts and burglaries to obtain heroin or funds to obtain heroin in support of the conspiracy.”

Ricks was among 60 people indicted in federal court in 2013 for their roles in the drug conspiracy. To date, 58 have been found guilty.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd, Daniel J. Riedl and Matthew B. Kall following an investigation by the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force. The NOLETF is a task force comprised of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Division of Police, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the police departments of Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Lakewood, the Regional Transit Authority, Westlake and Shaker Heights. The NOLETF is also one of the initial Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiatives, which supports and helps coordinate numerous Ohio drug task forces in their efforts to eliminate or reduce drug trafficking in Ohio.

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