Friday, July 23, 2004

Task force traces trail of narcotics


Warren County investigation leads to Texas, Mexico

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

Authorities say they have traced illicit narcotics sales in Warren County to suppliers in Texas and Mexico - and they say a series of arrests has disrupted the flow of millions of illegal pills into southwest Ohio.

Since an investigation began more than two years ago, officials have arrested 21 people and seized drugs, including Xanax (a tranquilizer), marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine with a street value of more than $5 million.

While federal officials are still looking for foreign connections to trafficking in Xanax, Warren County officials say they have followed the Xanax trail as far as they can.

John Burke, commander of the Warren-Clinton Drug and Strategic Operations Task Force, declined to discuss the status of the investigation into the sources of the other drugs.

On Wednesday, a Cincinnati federal grand jury indicted two Laredo, Texas, suspects in connection with the Xanax trafficking. Carlos Jimenez Villanueva, 42, and Dora Janeth Villanueva, 24, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Warren County authorities were in Texas to help police arrest the Villanuevas on July 10. Burke said the pair had sold 93,060 Xanax pills and 184 pounds of marijuana to undercover officers at a Kyle, Texas, residence near Austin.

The pair, being held in Austin, will be transferred to Cincinnati to answer their indictments on the charges.

The latest arrests stemmed from a bust in Warren County's Harlan Township in January.

The first major break in the two-year investigation came with the Jan. 22 arrest of Paul David Lawwill II, 32, of Moraine. Lawwill is being held in the Hamilton County Jail while awaiting trial.

Burke said authorities seized more than 33,000 Xanax tablets, 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 2.89 pounds of powdered ecstasy, plus methadone and oxycodone from a vehicle Lawwill was driving in Harlan Township.

Besides Burke's agency, the case has also involved the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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