He was never supposed to be here to begin with. Now authorities say a 41-year-old ran a massive drug-smuggling ring from an Ohio prison.
And they say he did it using a cellphone that was dropped into the prison by a drone.
The man charged is 41-year-old Jose Lozano-Leon and authorities said he was the head of a gang which he ran from Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said he’s serving 18 months there for illegal re-entry into the US after being deported in 2017.
Why he’s still in the U.S. living on the taxpayer’s dime is beyond us.
Authorities say he was able to talk to his boys through a contraband cellphone. Drug Enforcement Administration officers said it was dropped into the Youngstown prison by drone.
In total, they say there were least nine gang members that he oversaw. Authorities said they helped ship fentanyl stamped into pills, heroin and cocaine from Mexico.
They’re referred to as “Skittles” and were made to look like oxycodone.
In federal court in Cleveland on Thursday, a 17-count indictment was filed against 10 people, including the kingpin. They were all charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
“The lead defendant is accused of running an international drug-trafficking organization from a jail cell in Ohio,” said Justin Herdman.
He’s the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“He has come to this country illegally and allegedly made his living selling the same kinds of drugs that are killing our friends and neighbors. He is an importer of pain and will be prosecuted accordingly.”
There were also Two other Mexicans who were charged: Mario Hernandez-Leon, 31, and Clemente Gutierrez-Meraz, 27.
The others charged in the indictment were all from the Cleveland area: Lorne Franklin, 45, Belen Orozco-Sigala, 36, Najee Amir Evans, 28, Troy Pinnock, 47, Damon Bybee, 60, and Montez Vanburen, 38.
Authorities say that all but two are in federal custody.
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Let’s not forget that California is still reeling over the move two weeks ago by a state appeals court. They overturned the only conviction against an undocumented immigrant who shot and killed Kate Steinle on the San Francisco waterfront in 2015.
That case drew national attention, reigniting the debate over illegal immigration.
Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate was in the U.S. illegally. He had been deported to his native Mexico five times.
He was acquitted in November 2017 of first and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a semi-automatic weapon.
The only thing the criminal was convicted of was one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Then at the end of August, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco overturned that conviction. They did it because the judge failed to give the jury the option of acquitting Garcia-Zarate. That was done on the theory he only possessed the weapon for a moment.
Garcia-Zarate is still in custody, facing federal charges of gun possession and being in the country illegally.
According to his attorney, Tony Serra, that trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 13. He said the appeals court reversal will give state prosecutors the option to re-try Garcia-Zarate.
“That kind of error causes reversals all the time. Then the prosecution has the prerogative of going again,” Serra said. “The state case is a heavier case because it’s a homicide and a gun. … It’s going to be a big potential decision on what they’re going to do.”
Steinle was only 32 when she died on July 1, 2015. She was killed after being struck by a bullet while walking with her father and a family friend.
Garcia-Zarate claimed he picked up the gun, which was wrapped in a T-shirt, not knowing what it was and it fired accidentally.
But here’s the thing – that gun belonged to a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger and was stolen from his parked car a week earlier.
It adds insult to injury for the parents. That’s because the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision earlier this year to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Steinle’s parents against San Francisco.
According to the lawsuit, the city’s so-called sanctuary policy and San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi bore responsibility for Steinle’s death.
Here’s that back story – just three months before Steinle’s death, Garcia-Zarate was released from custody after a drug case against him was dropped.
And in a political move, the sheriff’s office, which had ended contact between jail employees and immigration officials, turned a blind eye.
They ignored a request by federal authorities to hold Garcia-Zarate until they could assume custody and did not inform them that he was being released.
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