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Collaboration leads to crack down on heroin distribution ring

December 21, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin called federal and local indictments targeting 14 alleged drug dealers a huge step in fighting heroin sales and use in the Ohio Valley.

Six men were named in a federal drug indictment announced during a Friday afternoon press conference at the Jefferson County Justice Center attended by law enforcement officials from Jefferson, Hancock and Brooke counties as well as federal law enforcement officials.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hunter said Kinlawed Hendrix, 27, of Steubenville; Calvin D. Bryant Jr., 26, of Canton; Robert L. Simmons Jr., 19, of Steubenville; Jessie O. Birden, 21, of Steubenville; Berryon F. Moore III, 25, of Steubenville and Joseph L. Dennis, 30 of Toronto were were indicted as part of a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin.

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COLLABORATIVE DRUG CRACKDOWN — Local law enforcement officials from Ohio and West Virginia, along with federal officials, announced Friday 14 area residents has been indicted this week on a number of drug-related charges by a federal grand jury and a special Jefferson County grand jury. Among the officials taking part in the Friday afternoon press conference were, from left, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Kevin Cornelius, Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher, Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty, Jefferson County Drug Task Force member Jason Hanlin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hunter at the podium and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. -- Dave Gossett

Hendrix, Bryant, Simmons and Moore also were charged with possession of a firearm in the furtherance of drug trafficking.

Hendrix and Birden also were named on a third count in the federal indictment of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime to distribute heroin.

Hunter said the six defendants were transported to Columbus to face a U.S. magistrate and could eventually face at least 15 years in prison.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Hendrix is the leader of the heroin distribution ring. She announced eight additional people were indicted by a special Jefferson County grand jury for a two-year involvement in a heroin distribution ring in the Steubenville area.

"Those charged include Lavinia Hearon, 29, of Chicago, tampering with evidence; Jacari Benson, 30, of Weirton, trafficking in heroin; Frederick L. McGowan, 39, of Madison, Wis., who is facing possession of heroin and possession of cocaine charges; and Robert Jackson, 32, of Steubenville who was indicted on two counts of trafficking in heroin. The grand jury also indicted Harry E. Stackhouse, 25, of Steubenville on two counts of trafficking in heroin; Rashann D. Mukes, 28, of Steubenville, trafficking in heroin in the presence of a juvenile with gun specifications; Kyle M. Irvin, 29, of Chicago, trafficking in heroin and Charles Henry Thompson, 24 of Chicago on trafficking in heroin and having a weapon under a disability," cited Hanlin.

Hanlin said Benson, McGowan, Jackson, Irvin, Thompson and Hendrix are believed to be in the Chicago area at this time.

"We are working federal officials in Chicago to locate these individuals and arrest them," she stated.

Hanlin said the local arrests started at 6:30 a.m. Friday when three teams of local and federal agents started knocking on doors.

She said there were no incidents during the morning arrests that took place in Steubenville, Toronto and Wintersville.

"The indictments and arrests today took a significant amount of heroin off the streets," Hanlin explained.

Hunter said the federal and state indictments came after a two-year investigation, "that saw a growing collaboration effort between local, state and federal law enforcement officials."

"Prior to this time we have not seen a collaborative effort as we have seen on this investigation. These indictments will put a serious dent in heroin trafficking in the Ohio Valley. We have known for some time heroin use is a major issue in the Ohio Valley. U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart told local officials he was prepared to fight the heroin problem and provide federal resources to local law enforcement agencies," Hunter said.

"We believe a substantial amount of the heroin coming to the Ohio Valley is from the Chicago area. We believe these indictments will prove successful in cracking down on the heroin problems in Chicago as well," continued Hunter.

According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, "the federal indictment is a result of an ongoing investigation into heroin trafficking and the related gun violence in the Ohio Valley. We will continue with a regional approach to investigate the sources of the illegal drugs and guns."

Kevin Cornelius, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge, said violent crime is one of the highest priorities for his agency.

"What we see here in Steubenville are violent crimes by gangs or groups of people acting as organized gangs. Heroin is a problem here and is of concern across the entire state. By working together we are fighting violent organized crime. We have two different networks here. We have the drug network that is bringing death and addiction to young people. And we have the other network of law enforcement coming together. Today is a great day for all of us. Today is a great first step," declared Cornelius.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla warned, "bad people don't know any boundaries."

"One of the individuals arrested this morning had heroin the size of a golf ball hidden in his rectum. That is what we are facing here. I can't thank the U.S. Attorney and local law enforcement enough," added Abdalla.

"Mr. Hendrix has been in our area for the past two years. He and his organization bring in a great deal of heroin to our area and that heroin crosses the river into Hancock and Brooke counties. What you see today is a major collaborative effort that has resulted in a major accomplishment," noted Hanlin.

"I can't say we have eradicated heroin from our area. But this is a major first step in that effort. And we are not done yet. We know there are other individuals involved with the drug trade. But people will no longer have to tolerate the heroin and drug trafficking. We have a new collaboration involving law enforcement agencies from Ohio and West Virginia, state and federal law enforcement officials working together. And we will see more results," promised Hanlin.

Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher said the Weirton-Hancock-Brooke Drug Task Force has cooperated with the Jefferson County Drug Task Force to identify suspected dealers and users and work to build criminal cases.

"The cooperation starts with the officers on the street on both sides of the Ohio River. The same criminals operating in Ohio are coming to West Virginia to sell their drugs," Fletcher stated.

Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty acknowledged heroin has become a major problem in Steubenville.

"But we are working together to obtain results. We have excellent collaboration and that will lead to more arrests. We have been watching these individuals and the cooperation with the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority allowed us to track where these people were staying and who they were living with. We don't want these drug dealers in our communities," McCaffery remarked.

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