Indictments shows conversations in drug ring run from Youngstown prison cell

Local News

Ten people were indicted for their role in supplying drugs to Cleveland

Jose Lazano-Leon charged with operating a drug ring out of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Court papers say the man indicted this week on charges that he was running a drug ring from a cell at a private prison in Youngstown was arranging deliveries of drugs and money across the country and once stressed to one of his couriers the importance of making a good first impression.

Federal authorities used wiretaps to listen in on texts and calls to a cellphone smuggled into the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center to Jose Lozano-Leon, 41, who is Mexican and awaiting sentencing in the prison on a charge of re-entering the United States illegally.

Nine other people were also indicted along with Lozano-Leon in the U.S. Northern District Court Of Ohio, charged with helping him deliver cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine from Mexico to Cleveland with stops in several locations including California and Arizona.

The case has been assigned to U.S. Judge Benita Y. Pearson.

Authorities with CoreCivic, who operate the NEOCC, worked with federal agents during the investigation.

The indictment said that Lozano-Leon was also in touch with another member of the ring who was in a federal prison in Michigan.

The ring began operations in November of 2018, about a month after Lozano-Leon was housed at the NEOCC on the illegal entry charge. The ring specialized in prescription painkiller pills, including fentanyl pills, which were referred to as “Skittles,” in recorded conversations in the indictment.

At one point, Lozano-Leon lectured a courier who was about to go to a meeting in Arizona on the importance of making a good first impression during the meeting, the indictment states.

The indictment said Lozano-Leon had a previous drug conviction in federal court in the northern district in 2008 and that he served more than one year in prison.

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