(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — The law enforcement task forces organized under the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC) confiscated more than $64 million in illegal drugs in 2022 alone, taking a bite out of the trafficking business in Ohio and inevitably saving lives.
“Every ounce of fentanyl taken off the street can prevent an overdose, just like every illegal gun seized has the potential to save a life,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who chairs the commission. “The work of our task forces is often covert, but the results do not go unnoticed.”
Besides the narcotics, task forces also seized 437 firearms and $7.7 million in currency in 2022.
The 2022 numbers bring the total task force seizures during Yost’s first term to $239.9 million in narcotics, 1,374 firearms and $56 million in currency.
Here is a year-by-year breakdown of the drugs confiscated:
Under OOCIC’s direction, task forces are formed through collaborative efforts and often involve local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Specifically, major drug interdiction task forces operate throughout the state with a focus on seizing illegal narcotics, weapons and cash before they impact Ohio communities.
Several major drug task forces exist and are funded through RecoveryOhio, in concert with the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Criminal Justice Services.
Here is a sampling of the seizures in 2022:
Central Ohio Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
In March, detectives assigned to the task force seized a parcel containing several criminal indicators. Further investigative work established that the shipper and recipient of the parcel. When the parcel was opened during the execution of a search warrant, detectives discovered four kilograms of cocaine.
In May, task force officers seized a parcel containing 1,000 grams of fentanyl. The investigation ultimately led investigators to a residence on the west side of Columbus where an additional 7,750 grams of fentanyl was seized.
The task force includes the Columbus Division of Police, AG’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Gahanna Police, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Postal Inspector, Ohio HIDTA and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Licking, Guernsey, and Muskingum County Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
In July, task force agents received a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concerning a suspected package at the parcel facility. Utilizing a K-9, approximately 4 pounds of methamphetamine was recovered. The package originated from southern California with a destination of Zanesville.
The task force, also known as the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force (CODE) includes the sheriff’s offices in Licking, Muskingum, Guernsey, Knox, Perry and Coshocton counties; the Ohio State Highway Patrol; the U.S. Postal Inspector; Homeland Security Investigations; and the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office
Medina and Summit Counties Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
In April, the task force, which operates as the Ohio Northeast Smuggling Enforcement Team (ONSET), became aware of a drug trafficking suspect staying at a local hotel. The suspect parked a car at a Target retail location and entered the store but never returned to the truck. ONSET continued surveillance on the truck. The task force executed a search warrant on the vehicle and seized $1,054,130 in bulk currency. The vehicle was towed by a local company and impounded. The suspect sought out the vehicle but denied any knowledge of the money and abandoned the cash.
In August, ONSET located two drug trafficking suspects in Summit County who were driving an SUV with Texas license plate. The task force officers determined that the driver was a resident of Michigan and had purchased the vehicle with cash. The suspects were observed traveling to a residence in Akron, where a third suspect showed up and left with a large bag. The third suspect’s vehicle was stopped and 9 pounds of marijuana, two handguns and $9,400 were seized. A search warrant was obtained for the Akron resident. The original two suspects, along with two additional males were arrested. In total, $21,300, 60 pounds of marijuana, 49 suspected fentanyl pills, 12 bottles of promethazine and 3 guns were seized.
The task force includes the sheriff’s offices in Medina and Summit counties, the Copley Township Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Medina County Drug Task Force, the State Highway Patrol, the Summit County Drug Task Force, the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office and the Medina County Prosecutor’s Office.
Lucas and Wood Counties Major Drug Interdiction Task Force
The task force, also known as the NW Ohio Bulk Currency Task Force, assisted the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office with an investigation that included a deceased individual in June. Initial responders discovered evidence of drug trafficking and notified the task force. Officers executed a search warrant and located 40 pounds of marijuana, drug trafficking ledgers and $166,597.
The task force includes the Toledo Police Department, the sheriff’s offices in Lucas and Wood counties, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the Toledo Drug Task Force, the State Highway Patrol, Perrysburg Police, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Ohio, the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office and the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office.
Additional seizures and arrests were conducted by the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force, Belmont County Major Drug Interdiction Task Force and the Hamilton County Drug Interdiction Task Force.