Feds say they broke up a prison drug smuggling plot

Cleveland) - Eleven people were indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute synthetic narcotics in federal prison by soaking paper in the drugs and then sending the drug-infused paper into prison as mail and other documents.

The letters included purported legitimate legal correspondence from members of the conspiracy impersonating actual attorneys. The recipients of the mailings then distributed the drug-infused paper to other inmates at significant profit and members of the conspiracy laundered the profits.

The defendants also imported fentanyl analogues from China for distribution across the United States.

Named in the 19-count indictment are: Roy Kahn, 48; Christopher Adams, 41; Irwin Jose Vargas, 43; Manuel Lopez, 58; Wayne Fabian, 47; Giuseppe Cellura, 45; Brian Perez-Ayala, 38; Andres Garcia, 41; Jesus Parra-Felix; Miguel Forteza-Garcia, 35, and Eduardo Rivera-Ocana, 36. All the defendants except Kahn, Adams, Lopez and Cellura are currently in federal prison.

“This indictment details the disruption of a sophisticated organization that bought drugs from suppliers in China and then shipped them across the United States, including sending them into federal prisons,” said Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.. “Law enforcement worked diligently to investigate and dismantle this group.”

FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes said: “Concealing dangerous, deadly, illegal drugs and smuggling into prisons by any method in order to profit from incarcerated drug users is quite crafty, but utilizing infusion methods onto paper causes extreme risks to innocent people who may handle the paper. The Bureau of Prisons Investigative Unit did an outstanding job in identifying not only the drugs, but also the method being utilized. Through collaborative law enforcement efforts, these drug dealers will answer for their crimes in federal court and innocent lives have been saved.”

According to the indictment:

Kahn controlled and operated a large multi-state conspiracy that obtained synthetic drugs from suppliers in China and distributed the drugs to inmates in federal prison. This took place between 2015 through 2018.

Kahn and Adams devised a chemical process where they infused the narcotics onto pieces of paper, which could then be cut into strips and smoked. At the height of their operation, they were infusing one kilogram of drugs a week, resulting in the creation of at least 500 drug-infused pages at a time.

Kahn’s organization then used these drug pages to create photographs, books and pamphlets, such as Harry Potter coloring books. They also used the drug pages to create legal mail such as briefs and motions bearing the names of real attorney or fictitious attorney personas they created. The purpose of these actions was to circumvent prison security.

Inmates paid Kahn, Vargas and others through the Bureau of Prisons’ payment system, money orders, wire transfers and other means. Kahn, Vargas and others engaged in a variety of money laundering techniques to make these payments appear legitimate.

Kahn then used the profits from the prison drug smuggling scheme to finance the purchase of more fentanyl analogues and other opioids from China for further distribution in the United States. Kahn and Adams had these drugs shipped to a number of cities, including Cleveland.

The indictment details how the defendants charged at least $500 for a sheet of drug-infused paper. Vargas stated: “The job is badass…they drown those sheets…and then they hang them…like photographs, they have them with clips and leave them to dry,” according to the indictment.

(Photo by Ken Robinson/WTAM)

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