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Attorney General DeWine Announces Six Arrests Following Seizure of $3.4 Million in Cocaine

June 18, 2018

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and members of the Central Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission/High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force announced today the arrests of six people following the seizure of approximately 75 pounds of cocaine.

Drugs Seized

Authorities with the task force, which is part of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, made the arrests after gathering evidence indicating that the drugs were being transported from Mexico to Columbus on a semi-truck.

Investigators intercepted the semi-truck in Columbus and served a search warrant on an East Fifth Street warehouse where an estimated $3.4 million worth of cocaine was found. Members of the task force also seized more than $500,000 in cash, two stolen firearms, and multiple vehicles, including the semi-truck.

Cash Seized

“Drug traffickers should know that they are taking a huge risk by coming to Ohio,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Our task forces are skilled at intercepting large shipments of drugs like this, and those caught bringing drugs here will face very serious consequences.”

The following suspects were arrested on drug charges:

Davion Craig, 22, Charlotte, North Carolina

Antwonne Hunter, 49, Columbus

Toinairis Hunter, 27, Columbus

Josue Montelongo-Rangel, 34, Mission, Texas

Juan Vela Jr., 40, Donna, Texas

Luis Villareal, 28, McAllen, Texas

The suspects are currently in custody at the Franklin County Jail.

The Columbus Division of Police and Gahanna Police Department led the investigation as part of the Central Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission/HIDTA Task Force with assistance from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Other agencies on the task force include the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Program, Ohio Casino Control Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Service, and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating organized crime and corrupt activities through the creation of multi-jurisdictional task forces. The commission is composed of members of the law enforcement community and is chaired by the Ohio Attorney General.

Since Attorney General DeWine took office in 2011, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission Task Forces across the state have seized more than $158 million in drugs and more than $28 million in currency.

AECOM Picked for $5M Ohio Smart Mobility Infrastructure Project

AECOM Technical Services, Inc. has been recommended for a $5 million contract to design and develop Ohio’s connected and autonomous vehicle infrastructure.

“In order to truly maximize our investments in this area, we need the ability to connect local and regional projects under a cohesive statewide framework,” said Jim Barna, Executive Director of DriveOhio. “The proposal put forward by AECOM will help us to continue our forward momentum and ensure Ohio is an early adopter, and benefactor, of the transportation technology revolution.”

On January 18, DriveOhio and ODOT submitted a request for proposals asking teams of engineering, technology and data companies to compete for a $5 million contract to develop a plan that would guide future investments in connected and automated vehicle technology. The purpose of the project is to provide equipment and application specifications for smart mobility technologies that could be used by state and local governments. The state is also seeking a master plan for statewide data storage, management and security for connected and autonomous vehicles. The estimated timeframe for the project is 12 months.

Of the original pool of candidates, four finalists were chosen to give presentation on April 3.

AECOM Technical Services, Inc. taking the lead and partnering with Cisco Systems, Inc.; Engage Public Affairs, LLC; M.H. Corbin LLC; OnBoard Security, Inc.; and Siemens Industry, Inc.

ARCADIS U.S., Inc. taking the lead and partnering with HERE Technologies; Iteris, Inc.; and OnBoard Security, Inc.

HDR Engineering, Inc. taking the lead and partnering with Gannett Fleming Engineers and Architects, P.C.; Google LLC; ICF Incorporated, LLC; KPMG LLP; OnBoard Security, Inc.; Synesis Partners, LLC; and The Ohio State University

HNTB Ohio, Inc. taking the lead and partnering with Bishop Consulting; Consensus Systems Technologies; Engage Public Affairs, LLC; Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors, LLC; and WSP USA Inc.

AECOM was chosen because of their project approach, the strength of their team, and their past experience. AECOM also proposed working closely with a diverse group of sub-consultants, including industry leaders Cisco Systems and Siemens, among others. The selection committee included a diverse group of public entities, including the Ohio Departments of Public Safety, Insurance, Administrative Services and Transportation, Smart Columbus, JobsOhio, The Ohio Turnpike Infrastructure Commission, the Federal highway Administration, and DriveOhio.

The selection is conditional upon final approval by the state’s Controlling Board.

Ohio is working to lead the way in advancing smart mobility technologies. Current initiatives already underway in Ohio include four smart road projects covering 164 miles of roadway, and two smart city projects.

DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation, facilitates collaboration between the public and private sectors, bringing all the right people to the table and serving as the single point of contact for all things autonomous and connected in Ohio.

ODNR and U.S. Hotel and Resort Management Announce Exciting New Partnership

OREGON, OH – Today the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) in collaboration with U.S. Hotel and Resort Management announced exciting new renovations and acquisitions as U.S. Hotel has officially assumed management of Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center. U.S. Hotel will also operate four other lodges including Deer Creek, Mohican, Punderson and Salt Fork which brings their total to eight throughout Ohio (including Burr Oak, Hueston Woods and Shawnee).

“U.S. Hotel is a great partner, and we are excited for them to expand their work with our state park lodges around the state,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “This is a win-win situation for both ODNR and U.S. Hotel, but most important, this change and new investment will really benefit our guests.”

“What started out as a simple quest to get our fourth Ohio State Park has morphed into something we could only have dreamed of,” said Tom Biegler, President and CEO of U.S. Hotel and Resort Management. “The Maumee Bay contract was the ‘Holy Grail’. We knew that it was the newest of the lodges, but it was also in the most incredible location, sitting on the shore of Lake Erie. This is exactly where we want to be and we’re anxious to see where our experience will take us going forward.”

One of the major investments U.S. Hotel will make at Maumee Bay is the construction of a “Reunion Cabin” on the shore of Lake Erie. This cabin will accommodate parties of more than 20 with large bedrooms and a state-of-the-art kitchen. U.S. Hotel will also construct additional camping cabins to take advantage of Maumee Bay’s beautiful Lake Erie views.

U.S. Hotel and Resort Management began operations at the Maumee Bay Lodge on January 31, 2018 as part of a multi-year contract with ODNR. As part of their bid proposal, U.S. Hotel has committed $2.5 million for property improvements. Below is a list of projects that have already been completed or are scheduled to begin in the coming year:

Lodge:

Guest room bathroom remodels

Dining room renovations

Public space flooring/tile upgrades

Upgrade from double beds to queen beds in all double rooms

New bedding package for 120 guestrooms

Snack bar upgrades

Front desk/guest registration area upgrades

Public space carpeting

Pro Shop:

Pro shop outdoor furniture

US Hotel purchased a fleet of brand new golf carts

Ohio Connections Academy Recognizes 2018 Graduates

Graduates from Delaware County ready to move on to next challenge

Columbus, OH – June 12, 2018 — More than 300 graduating seniors received their high school diplomas this weekend as members of the Ohio Connections Academy Class of 2018. On Saturday, as many as 220 of the graduating seniors travelled to Columbus from more than 60 Ohio counties to participate in the online charter school’s traditional commencement ceremony in Battelle Hall at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“While our school offers a non-traditional approach to education, we take a great deal of pride in offering our graduates a traditional commencement ceremony so they may celebrate with their families, friends and teachers,” OCA Superintendent Marie Hanna said. “Every year the faculty and staff at Ohio Connections Academy like to celebrate the hard work, determination and focus that each of these students demonstrated to reach this academic milestone. We appreciate the opportunity that we had to work with all of them individually and we are confident that each student is ready to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.”

The Class of 2018 is the tenth graduating class for the state’s leading provider of high-quality, tuition-free virtual education for students in grades K–12. Of this year’s OCA graduates, more than half indicated they plan to attend a two or four-year college/university including The Ohio State University, University of Akron, University of Cincinnati, Cuyahoga Community College, Hocking College, Miami University, Sinclair Community College, Ohio University and Youngstown State University. Twenty of the graduates were members of the National Honor Society while more than 100 graduated with honors (3.5 GPA or better). Overall the Class of 2018 has received more than $1.7 million in college scholarships and awards.

The following students from Delaware County are among Ohio Connections Academy’s Class of 2018*:

  • Evan Mickley, Delaware
  • Stacie Seum, Ostrander

Among the OCA graduates to be honored during the commencement ceremony were 2018 Co-Valedictorians Christiana Hess of Heath (Licking County) and Sarah Robinson of Massillon (Stark County). Christiana has plans to attend The Ohio State University to study bio-chemistry. Sarah plans to study chemical engineering at Akron University.

“There are so many things about Ohio Connections Academy that helped me to succeed academically starting with the ability to work at my own pace while my teachers were always available to help when I needed it,” said Sarah, who has attended OCA since the third grade. “Perhaps what I appreciate most is the flexible schedule that enabled me to take college courses and grow to be an independent learner.”

OCA delivers personalized education for students that combines Ohio-certified teachers , a proven curriculum, as well as technology tools, and community experiences—online and in person—to create a supportive environment for children who want an individualized approach to education.

Enrollment for the Ohio Connections Academy 2018-19 school year is currently open. Interested parents and students are encouraged to learn more at one of the many in-person or online information sessions offered by the school.

*NOTE: Not all students from the area may be included as some asked to not be listed

About Ohio Connections Academy

Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) is a tuition-free, K-12 public eSchool that provides a fully accredited, high-quality and highly accountable virtual education experience for approximately 4,700 students from all over Ohio. OCA combines Ohio-certified teachers and a rigorous, individualized curriculum designed by national education experts and customized to meet the specific standards set by the Ohio Department of Education. For more information, call 800–382–6010 or visit www.OhioConnectionsAcademy.com Connections Academy and its parent company, Connections Education, are part of the global learning company Pearson (NYSE:PSO) www.Pearson.com.

BBB Scam Spotlight: May 2018

Columbus, OH (June 12, 2018) – Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

In May, Central Ohio consumers reported over $7,000 lost to scams.

BBB analyzed 53 Scam Tracker reports from May 2018 to shed a spotlight on three scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

1. Employment Scam: A Whitehall, Ohio student reported losing $3,000 to a secret shopper scam. He applied to work with a company using the name American Consumer Eyes and soon received a check in the mail for $3,000. He was told to deposit the check and wire some money back, but the check was fake, costing him the full amount when he took it out of his account.

A woman from Bexley, Ohio reported two different mystery shopping scammers contacted her and attempted to steal over $5,300 total. After searching online for secret shopper jobs, she came across someone impersonating the company Capstone Research. She contacted them, was approved and told she would be mailed a check soon. After she received the check, she was surprised that the amount was so high. She was supposed to be paid $200 but the check was for $2,450, and included a letter with detailed instructions to complete the assignment within 24 hours and text a number saying “Task Received”. The letter instructed her to deposit the check, take the leftover money, then wire it back to them from Walmart.

She had also applied to work for a company using the name Secret Insight. They let her know she was approved and she would be receiving a check in the mail. When the check came, it included a strip of paper with instructions to email them for more information on how to proceed. The check was for $2,900, which also seemed suspicious after already receiving a large check from the other company. After she emailed the recruiter, they told her they receive too many calls and they would have to communicate via text.

After her back-to-back experiences, the consumer knew something was not right and came in to BBB for guidance.

Always be cautious of work-from-home jobs, secret shopper positions, or any job with a generic title such as caregiver, administrative assistant or customer service rep. When in doubt, don’t apply at the risk of losing your personal information or money. Job searching is difficult, and any company that says you can get a job, work from home, and quickly make large sums of money is most likely a job scam. When applying, do your homework, and make sure to research the business on bbb.org.

2. Tech Support Scam: A man reported that his elderly mother who lives in Grove City, Ohio lost $2,000. She was receiving a high volume of phone calls and eventually answered. The caller was a scammer who told her she had purchased tech support from him a couple of years ago, that they had gotten in trouble with BBB and now he could refund her $200. He showed her on her computer that he was able to give her a deposit, but then acted panicked and claimed he gave her $2,000 on accident and that he would get in trouble if she didn’t help him get the money back.

She drove to Walmart to buy $2,000 in gift cards but the employee would not sell them to her, insisting she was being scammed. She left, then went to Target and bought the cards anyway. She called the scammer back, read the numbers off the back of the cards then destroyed them. The bank is now reviewing her situation without any guarantee she will get the money back.

Protect yourself from tech support scams:

Don’t ever give a stranger remote access to your machine: Granting someone remote access to your computer permits them to install malware and access your files.

Be wary of anyone calling you and claiming to be from a big-name tech company: Most big tech company employees will not call customers who have not asked to be called.

Don’t believe Caller ID: Victims report falling for this scam because the calls appear to come from Apple Support. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so don’t believe what you see on your phone.

Think twice when you see a pop-up notification on your computer that isn’t from a program you installed: Scammers make tech support scam pop-ups that look like they’re coming from your computer, but they are actually ads displaying in your internet browser.

3. Moving Scam: A woman from Worthington, Ohio reported losing $1,550 to a moving scam. She was looking for a home on rent.com and found a listing for a half double in Columbus. The listing was by someone using the name Michael J. Stalter and provided his contact information.

The post said he lived in Maine and would have to be paid by MoneyGram or Western Union. He asked for an initial $200 deposit, and gave the consumer a copy of his signature on the lease, a copy of his passport and a certificate of ownership of the property. The lease looked official, breaking down the security deposit, monthly rent and application fee. The consumer went to Walmart and sent $1,550 to the poster’s realtor, Scott Pinette, in Sanford, Maine.

When she went to move in, things seemed off. No one was there, and the “For Rent” sign was gone. The double was cleared out. She looked up the listing on Zillow and called the realtor listed, who told her she was renting it to someone else and that she should call BBB.

If you are in the market for a new place to live, consider these BBB tips to avoid rental scams:

Do your research. Search for the realty company and apartment complex on bbb.org to see if there are any complaints or customer reviews.

Review the lease carefully before signing. Put a mark next to anything that you have questions about. If there’s something you wish to change in your lease agreement, it never hurts to ask. If there is an issue with the apartment that the landlord agrees to fix before you move in, be sure to get it in writing – including a date by which the repair or repairs will be completed.

Be careful on Craigslist or other sites with rental listings. Some ads might ask the potential leaser to wire money in order to secure the rental. Never wire or forward funds to someone you don’t know and never agree to a rental without first inspecting the property in person.

Be aware that scammers will go to rental websites, copy a rental listing (including photos) and repost them to Craigslist at a much lower cost.

Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.

Attorney General DeWine, Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force Announce Major Fentanyl Seizure

June 12, 2018

(DAYTON, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis today announced the seizure of approximately 20 pounds of fentanyl with the capability of killing more than four million people.

Fentanyl Arrests

Authorities with the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, seized the approximately 20 pounds of fentanyl last night.

The following four suspects were arrested on drug charges:

Aguilar Reyes-Espinosa, New Carlisle

Omar Cantu-Garcia, Nuevo Leon, Mexico

David Cantu-Garcia, Nuevo Leon, Mexico

Pedro Medina, Nuevo Leon, Mexico

Authorities arrested the suspects after gathering evidence indicating they were allegedly involved in narcotics trafficking. As part of the investigation, agents conducted a series of traffic stops and searched a residence on Prentice Drive in New Carlisle, Ohio.

A large amount of marijuana and more than $100,000 in cash were also seized as part of the investigation.

Fentanyl and Money

“We are certain that this investigation has saved lives by stopping this poison from getting to the streets and into the hands of those fighting addiction,” said Ohio Attorney General DeWine. “Each day, my office and law enforcement agencies across the state are fighting hard against the drug epidemic, and we must continue to press forward in the battle against the drug cartels.”

“This is another example of the ongoing battle against drug cartels bringing in illegal drugs into our communities. We recognize collaboration through federal, state and local partnerships are necessary to have a significant impact on the criminal organizations in Montgomery County and the Miami Valley,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.

“The amount of fentanyl seized in this case is enough to kill millions of people,” said Steve Francis, HSI special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio. “There is no doubt that a significant seizure like this one has saved the lives of many Ohioans. HSI is a proud partner of the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force and is committed to the incredible work that is being done on behalf of the residents of Ohio.”

Authorities with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.

The suspects are currently being held in the Montgomery County Jail on drug trafficking charges.

The Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force is made up of officers from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Miami Township Police Department, Butler Township Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Montgomery County RANGE Task Force, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

In addition to this week’s drug seizure, the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force has also seized 79 pounds of fentanyl, 122 pounds of heroin, 219 pounds of cocaine, 110 pounds of methamphetamine, 4,134 pounds of marijuana, and more than $7 million in U.S. currency since its inception 2013.

Established in 1986, the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating organized crime and corrupt activities through the creation of multi-jurisdictional task forces. The commission is composed of members of the law enforcement community and is chaired by the Ohio Attorney General.

Ohio Launches First Distracted Driving Safety Corridor

ODOT and the Ohio State Highway Patrol partner to battle the increase of distracted drivers

AKRON – As the number of crashes in Ohio caused by distracted drivers continues to climb, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) have joined forces to create the first Distracted Driving Safety Corridor.

The goal of the corridor, which runs along I-76 and I-80 between Newton Falls Rd. (just east of SR 534) and West Liberty St. (just east of SR 193), is improving safety, while reducing crashes, fatalities and injuries along one of Ohio’s busiest stretches of interstate highway.

“Distracted driving crashes are preventable crashes,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “While many people realize the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel, too many Ohioans continue to take their focus away from driving.”

Since 2013, there have been 64,908 crashes caused by distracted drivers in Ohio. Those crashes have resulted in 189 deaths and 22,428 serious injuries

Throughout the corridor, ODOT will be placing signage alerting motorists when they enter the corridor and also informing them that this is a high enforcement area. Signs will also be placed throughout the corridor reminding motorists of the dangers of distracted driving.

Between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2018, OSHP handed out 2,735 distracted driving violations in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties. During that same time, there were 1,245 distracted driving crashes which included three fatalities and nearly 450 injuries.

“Troopers from the Canfield and Warren Posts will elevate their focus on distracted driving violations occurring in the corridor,” Lieutenant Jerad Sutton from the Patrol’s Canfield Post said. “Our focus will be educating the public on the dangers of distracted driving and enforcing distracted driving violations.”

Troopers will also hand out the “If You Think You’re a Multitasker, You’re Wrong” pamphlet on traffic stops. The posts will use Federal Grant dollars to supplement patrols along the corridor.

For more information on the corridor please visit www.transportation.ohio.gov/DDSC. Here you will find interactive maps and statistics about the corridor and distracted driving.

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STAFF & WIRE REPORTS