Suspects sentenced in Operation Loaded Deck

Courtroom Gavel - WTAM

(Cleveland) - A Warrensville Heights man was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for helping lead a conspiracy that brought large amounts of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine into Greater Cleveland from Chicago and Yonkers, New York.

Alfonso Rodrigo, 37, was sentenced to 200 months in federal prison. He was one of nearly 20 people prosecuted as part of Operation Loaded Deck. Law enforcement seized 29 kilograms of cocaine, eight kilograms of heroin and one kilogram of fentanyl, as well as $350,000 and several firearms as part of the investigation.

Some of these conspirators had significant links to the Sinaloa cartel. Among the defendants sentenced thus far:

Ismael Acosta, 39, of Cleveland Heights, to 190 months in prison.

David Urrabazo Maldonado, 31, of Medera, California, to 120 months in prison.

Jonathan Stepp, 34, of Cleveland, to 108 months in prison.

Jose Hernandez, 57, of Chicago, to 57 months in prison.

The defendants conspired together from 2010 through 2016 to obtain fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and marijuana from suppliers in Chicago and Yonkers, N.Y. and then sell the drugs in Northeast Ohio.

Prosecutors say Acosta obtained heroin from suppliers in Chicago. Jose Hernandez supplied vehicles with after-market trap compartments to transport hidden drugs and drug proceeds. The conspirators used a home on West 130th Street in Cleveland to store and distribute the drugs and drug money. 

Investigators report, the Rodrigos used a house on Maple Heights Boulevard in Maple Heights to store and distribute drugs and drug money, according to court documents.

“Cocoa plants don't grow in Cleveland and poppy plants don't grow in Parma," said Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “We increasingly see the Mexican cartels sending deadly narcotics into our region, and that was certainly true in this case.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Plancon said: “The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Operation Loaded Deck exposed a network of violent drug cartel members who controlled a pipeline of cocaine and fentanyl from Mexico and Phoenix to Cleveland, along with several other major American cities including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and New York. The DEA, along with our federal, state, and local partners, has ruptured that pipeline to impede the flow of poison this organization was pushing onto our streets. This collaborative law enforcement effort sends a clear message that we have zero tolerance for drug dealers and their violence in northern Ohio. This investigation has demonstrated DEA’s resolve to dismantle criminal organizations such as this, and to reduce violent crimes and drug related activities in our community.”

“The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs,” said Ryan Korner, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “Without these ill-gotten gains, the traffickers could not finance their organizations. IRS-CI is committed to taking the profit away from the drug traffickers and putting those individuals in jail.”

(Photo by Ken Robinson/WTAM)

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