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Thirty-Seven Indicted in Connection with Mahoning County Drug Trafficking Organization


(YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, members of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, and Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains today announced that a 261-count indictment has been filed against 37 individuals accused in connection with a drug trafficking organization operating in Mahoning County.

The indictments follow a heroin trafficking investigation led by the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force’s Drug Unit with assistance from Attorney General DeWine's Heroin Unit.

Prosecutors with Attorney General DeWine's Special Prosecutions Section, acting as special assistants to the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, presented the case to a Mahoning County grand jury last Thursday, and members of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force's Drug Unit served arrest warrants in connection with the case today.

"The primary goal of large-scale investigations like this is to go after the main drug traffickers who are profiting from addiction, dismantle their drug operations, and hold them accountable," said Attorney General DeWine.  "Heroin is taking lives and tearing families apart all across Ohio, and state, local, and federal authorities will continue to work together to bring these trafficking organizations down."

Among the 37 suspects indicted, Terrence Rushton, 32, of Youngstown, who is believed to be the ringleader of the group, was charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, trafficking in heroin, complicity to trafficking in heroin, aggravated trafficking in drugs, trafficking in cocaine, money laundering, and having weapons while under disability.  Rushton was arrested on the charges this morning.

An additional 12 individuals identified as the main and mid-level operators of the organization were also charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and multiple other drug-related charges. Those in bold were in custody as of 3:00 today:

  • Michael Cain, 37, Youngstown
  • Raymond Wright, 36, Youngstown
  • Keith Johnson, 26, Youngstown
  • Hiawatha Johnson, 28, Youngstown
  • Ashanti Bunch, 39, Youngstown
  • Charles Frohman, 31, Girard
  • Trevon Howell, 25, Youngstown
  • Brandon Williams, 24, Youngstown
  • Shenika Rushton, 33, Youngstown
  • Randy Cox, 34, Austintown
  • Heidi Smith, 31, Mineral Ridge
  • James Vespasian, 33, Struthers

A list of additional defendants indicted in connection with the case, as well as a copy of the indictment, can be found on the Attorney General's website.

“Today’s arrests are the result of a lengthy investigation, which used a multitude of conventional investigative techniques that consisted of seven-day work weeks, often 24 hours a day,” said Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force Detective Greg Wilson.  “This investigation would not have been possible without the support of our member agencies’ trustees, councilmen, councilwomen, and chiefs of police who have supported the task force and its vision.  Also, our support staff have played an integral role in the task force’s success, and of course, we thank our families who sacrifice their personal time with us as we investigate these complex cases, all in a cooperative effort to make Mahoning County a safer place to live.”

Additional charges listed in the 261-count indictment include possession of heroin, aggravated possession of drugs, possession of cocaine, felonious assault, receiving stolen property, improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, and possession of marijuana.  A major drug offender specification was also filed against 15 of the defendants.

Multiple forfeiture specifications for property alleged to have been obtained through the commission of illegal felony drug abuse activity were also filed for items such as guns, ammunition, body armor, stun guns, and multiple vehicles.

The Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force is made up of authorities from the Austintown Township Police Department, Canfield Township Police Department, Poland Township Police Department, Adult Parole Authority, Beaver Township Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Liberty Township Police Department, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Township Police Department, Struthers Police Department, Youngstown Police Department, and Youngstown State University Police Department.

Authorities working as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program also assisted with the investigation, and those with the U.S. Marshals Service assisted task force members in serving today's arrest warrants.

Attorney General DeWine created the Heroin Unit in 2013 after information gathered by the Attorney General's Office revealed an increasing rate of heroin overdose deaths across the state.  The unit is made up of authorities from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Special Prosecutions Section, and Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.  The unit also includes education and outreach specialists from the Attorney General’s Office.


Media Contacts:

Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840

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