Daily Court Reporter - News Eleven people indicted for roles in conspiracy to distribute synthetic narcotics into federal prison by soaking paper in the drugs and then sending the drug-infused paper into prison as mail and other
Eleven people indicted for roles in conspiracy to distribute synthetic narcotics into federal prison by soaking paper in the drugs and then sending the drug-infused paper into prison as mail and other
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,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “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.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Joint Information Sharing Initiative, the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cronin and Elliot Morrison.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
About the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio
The Department of Justice is the nation's litigator, serving but one client, the United States. The United States Attorneys serve as the Department's principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. There are 93 United States Attorneys stationed in judicial districts throughout the United States and its territories. United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate. Each United States Attorney is the Chief Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the United States within his or her particular jurisdiction.
United States Attorneys conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. The United States Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 507 of the United States Code:
the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal Government;
the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and
the collection of debt owed to the Federal Government.
Although the caseload varies among districts, each has every category of cases and handles a mixture of simple and complex litigation. Each United States Attorney exercises wide discretion in the use of his or her resources to further the priorities of the local jurisdictions and needs of their communities.
The Northern District of Ohio consists of the 40 northern counties in Ohio. The U.S. Attorney's office (USAO) for the district is located in Cleveland, Ohio and there are staffed branch offices in Toledo, Akron and Youngstown. The office is divided into organizational units with specific responsibility for carrying out the mission of the office.
Date Published: February 14, 2019