Mexican chemist involved in major area meth bust that officials say continues long-term investigation

A Mexican chemist allegedly overseeing operations of a drug trafficking conspiracy and caught with more than 140 pounds of methamphetamine is among seven more defendants in what the U.S. Attorney’s Office calls a Dayton-based, cartel-linked organization.

An unsealed superseding indictment filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court alleged the defendants — two of whom remain fugitives — of six counts including possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of meth, more than 400 grams of fentanyl, more than 100 grams of heroin and money laundering.

“We’re not talking about some small quantity of methamphetamine that was manufactured in a pot in somebody’s RV,” Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said during Tuesday’s news conference at Dayton’s Federal Building.

“We are talking about literally hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine that is being sent by a Mexican drug trafficking organization to exploit the addiction of people here in Ohio and the surrounding region.”

RELATED: 6 pounds of meth in mail, jail call nets long sentence in drug case

The latest seizure in the year-long investigation included the 140 pounds of meth, nearly 15.5 pounds of fentanyl, nearly 4.5 pounds of heroin, more than $130,000 in cash and a Bersa 9mm pistol, according to Glassman and court documents.

Those indicted and in custody are Salvador Ramirez, aka “Listo,” 23 of West Chester, Tamara McQueen, 21 of Hamilton, Luiz Roberto Diaz-Magana, 29 of Queretaro, Mexico, and Jesus “Jesse” Garcia, 49 of West Chester. Takeea Trammell, 41, of Dayton, has said she would turn herself in, according to authorities.

Glassman said help is needed to find Joshua Leach, 34, and Brandi Loy, 34, both recently of of Plain City, Ohio. He said anyone with information can call the Dayton Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office at 937-903-5860.

RELATED: Drugs in the mail: Dangerous synthetic opioids ‘raised the stakes’

“We need the public’s assistance specifically in order to apprehend the fugitives in this case,” Glassman said. “We also need the public’s assistance generally so that the public is aware of the threat that is posed by stimulant drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and other stimulants that are just as deadly as the opioid drugs that have been plaguing this region for quite some time.”

Glassman would not provide any details of the origin of the investigation, the apprehension of suspects or the assistance that the DEA received from the Middletown and Monroe police departments, the Pike County and Warren County sheriff’s offices, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other agencies. He said the meth and the cash were seized in Ohio and the fentanyl was seized in Texas.

“The Salvador Ramirez drug trafficking organization was based in the Dayton metropolitan area and quickly expanded to the communities in and around Columbus and Cincinnati,” said Mauricio Jimenez, Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the DEA’s Columbus District. “This is an ongoing, long-term investigation that has resulted in 15 indictments, 12 arrests and, to date, seven convictions.”

RELATED: Local drug trade ‘bigger problem than we thought’

Jimenez added that the Ramirez group is linked to a “Mexican transnational criminal organization” and is associated with a high-ranking member of a “violent, international gang.”

Glassman would not pinpoint the cartel, the gang affiliation or how the investigation began.

“It has involved a number of different seizures and court-authorized law enforcement techniques including the execution of search warrants,” Glassman said. “We’re not prepared to allege that this organization is responsible for any deaths.

“Although I will say that I’ve given you figures for the huge quantities of drugs that have been seized as a result of this investigation, and that’s nothing of the quantities of drugs that may have been produced had this organization been allowed to continue.”

RELATED: How Mexican drug cartels move heroin to Miami Valley street corners

Ramirez was arraigned Tuesday morning and pleaded not guilty. McQueen’s arraignment was delayed because her attorney said she didn’t receive a copy of the superseding indictment.

Diaz-Magana and Garcia previously were arraigned June 29 by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Newman. Both pleaded not guilty. All four defendants in custody are being detained.

Glassman said stimulant epidemics typically pop up in areas with a heavily opioid-addicted population such as the Dayton area.

“As you can see, law enforcement is prepared to meet that threat,” he said. “And we’re doing through investigations collaboratively with federal, state and local partners like the kind that we’re announcing (Tuesday).”

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