Crime News Briefs

Task Force Seizes 400 Pounds of Marijuana, Two Arrested

DAYTON — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, and members of the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force announced recently the seizure of approximately 400 pounds of marijuana in connection with an investigation into a large-scale marijuana distribution organization operating between Dayton and Columbus.

Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force

Investigators with the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force arrested Victor Guadiana, 54, of South Houston, Texas, and David Garcia-Barajas, 25. Garcia-Barajas is not a United States citizen.

Members of the task force began investigating Guadiana earlier this year. Following a traffic violation, authorities conducted a traffic stop and found approximately 100 pounds of marijuana in Guadiana’s vehicle. Upon gathering additional evidence, task force agents served a search warrant on a home on Gideon Lane in Columbus, where authorities found an additional 300 pounds of marijuana and $20,000 in cash.

“Those looking to traffic drugs in the Miami Valley should know that they are going up against a very skilled drug task force,” said DeWine. “Through the cooperation of local, state, and federal officials, this task force continues to remove large quantities of drugs from the streets.”

“This is another example of the ongoing battle against citizens from Mexico illegally entering the United States and bringing in illegal drugs into our communities,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer. “It’s a collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies that continues to make our work successful.”

“These arrests and significant seizures demonstrate the true power of multi-agency collaboration, which is essential to our ability to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations,” said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. “The evidence collected as part of this ongoing investigation will ensure the case expands and leads to the dismantling of the entire organization, which is the ultimate goal.”

Both Guadiana and Garcia-Barajas are being federally charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. The defendants appeared in court this afternoon and were charged with possession with intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana.

The Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, is led by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and includes representatives from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Miami Township Police Department, Butler Township Police Department, Montgomery County RANGE Task Force, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration and Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

Those with tips on illegal drug activity in the Miami Valley can contact the Miami Valley Bulk Smuggling Task Force at 937-225-6272.

Westerville Man sentenced for fraud scheme

COLUMBUS – Mark Preston French, 42, of Westerville was sentenced in U.S. District Court to serve three months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $112,000 for defrauding an elderly client in a precious metals investment fraud.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the sentence imposed today by U.S. District Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.

French pleaded guilty in January 2016 to one count of wire fraud. According to court documents, French worked as a stockbroker between 1998 and 2013 and began investing in precious metals in 2008. An elderly woman from Greenville, Pa., who believed French was an investment advisor, was his client between 2000 and 2012.

In 2009, French advised his elderly client to open joint checking and savings accounts with him so he could purchase and sell precious metals on her behalf. French instructed his client to reinvest other securities she held by depositing funds totaling more than $1.3 million into these joint accounts. French used the funds to purchase gold and silver from Tulving Company in Newport Beach, Calif. but also embezzled $111,848.73 from the joint accounts.

In September 2012, the elderly client told French she wanted physical possession of her gold and silver, which French was storing in his Westerville home. Instead, French sold a majority of the precious metals back to Tulving Company, returning approximately $1 million back to his client but keeping part of the proceeds for himself. He also kept 11,942 ounces of silver purchased with his client’s funds, which was valued at more than $400,000.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation by the FBI, as well as Deputy Criminal Chief Brenda Shoemaker, who represented the United States in this case.

2 indicted on OVI charges

A Delaware County Grand Jury has returned indictments against 53-­year-­old Lisa Currey of Westerville and 22-­year‐old Dakota Mead of Centerburg.

“In both of these cases, members of the public took proactive steps when they noticed something seemed wrong,” said First Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Rohrer.

On March 25, 2017 the Westerville Police received a call that a person appeared to be passed out behind the wheel of a car. Westerville authorities found the driver, Lisa Currey, in the vehicle with the keys in the ignition. Currey has been charged with two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs – both fourth‐degree felonies and one count of driving under OVI suspension – a first‐degree misdemeanor.

On April 6, 2017 the Ohio State Highway Patrol received a call about a potential road rage incident. Upon investigation, the driver, Dakota Mead, was found to have glassy, bloodshot eyes as well as slurred speech. Mead has been charged with improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle – a fourth‐degree felony, and two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs – both first‐degree misdemeanors.

“I commend the folks who made the choice and took the time to call law enforcement,” said Rohrer. “Our roadways demand our full attention when driving, and impaired drivers can not only hurt themselves, but others as well.”

To report a suspected drunk or impaired driver, you can call 1‐800-­GRAB‐DUI or #677.

Arraignment dates have not yet been set.

Man Accused of Repeat Consumer Protection Violations

HAMILTON — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a man accused of repeatedly failing to deliver promised home improvement services to customers.

The lawsuit accuses Christopher D. Craft, operating as New Century Remodeling, of taking money from consumers and then failing to perform the work or to provide refunds.

Consumers in southwest Ohio complained that they paid Craft’s business hundreds or thousands of dollars for work that was never completed.

According to the lawsuit, Craft currently lives in Florida, but he had been operating from Batavia, Ohio, under the name New Century Remodeling. Before that, he operated under the name Columbia Exteriors, a company the Attorney General sued in 2016 for consumer protection violations. In that case, a judge in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court ruled that Craft and Columbia Exteriors were liable for over $170,000 in restitution to 16 consumers.

The Attorney General’s new lawsuit, filed in the Butler County Common Pleas Court, accuses Craft of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to deliver promised services and by taking on new customers despite having unsatisfied judgments from past consumer transactions.

In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks a permanent injunction to prevent Craft from starting a new home improvement business in Ohio and damages for consumers.

Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to research home improvement contractors carefully before making any payments. Consumers should check both the company name and the name of the owner or individuals involved with the operation, as some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to find their record of shoddy work.

To research a contractor, search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau, check business filings with the Ohio Secretary of State, conduct internet searches, check court websites for legal action, and talk to past customers to learn about their experiences with the contractor.

Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.

Former Assistant Pleads Guilty to Theft in Office

Former Mt. Sterling administrative assistant Bonnie Liff pleaded guilty July 24 to a fourth-degree felony count of theft in office, making her the third village employee convicted following an investigation into the crimes of former village administrator Joseph Johnson.

As part of a plea agreement, Liff will pay the village $21,444 in exchange for the state’s dismissal of a second count of theft in office. The restitution covers the amounts from both counts. The state will recoup the funds from Liff’s pension account, which was frozen during the investigation.

“Justice is now three-quarters served for the citizens of Mt. Sterling,” Auditor Yost said. “Once a fourth and final conviction is obtained, the village can put this mess to bed and focus on repairing the damage left in the wake of Joseph Johnson and his cronies.”

Liff will be sentenced Aug. 17.

Liff, who also served as a utility clerk for the village, was indicted in April after investigators discovered she cashed in more sick-leave time than she was permitted to under village policy, as well as more vacation time than she had accrued.

The findings resulted from an investigation by the Auditor of State’s office and local law enforcement into Johnson’s theft of more than $724,000. He was sentenced in March to 10 years in prison for spending village funds on personal items including vehicles, automotive equipment and electronics.

Also in March, former village bookkeeper Victoria Sheets pleaded guilty to falsification for doctoring the date on a document that allowed Johnson to obtain his state pension benefits early, before investigators could freeze the account.

Meanwhile, former Village Mayor Charles Neff awaits a hearing scheduled for Aug. 15 amid his indictment on two third-degree felony counts of theft in office, a first-degree misdemeanor count of falsification and a second-degree misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty.

Neff is accused of issuing a $16,702 check to Johnson for sick leave in excess of what he was entitled to receive, and of directing Sheets to issue a $38,120 check to Johnson, paying him more than he was authorized to receive for vacation and sick leave payout. He also allegedly failed to credit 25 percent of village income tax revenue to the village’s capital improvement fund.

Robert Smith, assistant chief legal counsel for the Auditor’s office, was appointed special prosecutor for all four cases.

Following a fiscal analysis of the village, Auditor Yost placed the village in a state of fiscal emergency on June 22. The analysis identified deficit balances in village funds totaling $340,491 and $269,437 as of Dec. 31, 2016, and April 30, 2017, respectively.

Following Severe Weather, Attorney General DeWine Warns Consumers to Beware of Scams

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently warned consumers to beware of scams following the severe weather that hit Ohio this week.

“Bad weather, unfortunately, can lead to scams,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Some con artists will travel to storm-damaged communities, go door to door offering immediate work, and then leave after taking someone’s money. Another risk, with all the flooding we’ve had, is for flood-damaged cars to eventually make their way to the market. We just warn people to be careful. Scams are out there, but prevention can go a long way.”

Home Repair Scams

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has pursued dozens of cases involving home improvement services that were never provided as promised, including cases against “storm-chasing” contractors who contacted consumers at their homes, took large down payments, and left without completing the promised work.

Warning signs include:

  • Contractors who show up unexpectedly after a storm.
  • Contractors with no reputation or a poor reputation.
  • Requests for large upfront payments, such as half or more of the total cost.
  • Requests for consumers to sign over their insurance check.
  • Offers to begin work immediately.
  • No written contract outlining the work to be done.
  • Door-to-door sellers who don’t notify consumers about their cancellation rights.

To avoid problems, consumers should research contractors carefully before hiring them, and they should consider getting estimates from multiple businesses before making a final decision. Consumers can search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau and contact past customers to ask about their experiences with a company.

If a contract results from a door-to-door sale, consumers generally have three business days to cancel the contract under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Sellers must provide consumers with written notice of their cancellation rights under this law.

Flood-Damaged Vehicles

After extensive flooding occurs, some flood-damaged vehicles ultimately may enter the market. For example, individuals may sell cars online without disclosing flood damage, or dealers may purchase cars at auction without realizing that they were damaged in a flood or totaled by an insurance company.

Used-car buyers can help protect themselves by checking vehicle history reports using services such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

History checks may not show the complete background of a vehicle, so consumers also should have the vehicle evaluated by an independent mechanic before making a purchase. Signs of potential water damage include stains, musty odors, dirt, rust, brittle wires, lights that don’t work or that appear foggy, an ignition that doesn’t start, or other electrical problems.

Consumers who need help or who want to report a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.

Sen. Applauds Consumer Protection Bureau Taking Action to Protect Ohio Homeowners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee – applauded recent action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) against Ocwen Financial Corp. The CFPB alleges that Ocwen, one of the nation’s largest nonbank mortgage servicers, for years “engaged in significant and systemic misconduct at nearly every stage of the mortgage servicing process.” Ocwen has been the subject of several enforcement actions and more than 23,000 CFPB complaints, including 675 complaints from Ohioans.

Brown is Ranking Member of the Banking Committee, which has oversight jurisdictions over CFPB. Read more about the action CFPB is taking to protect Ohio homeowners from Ocwen’s abusive practices here.

“Time and again, big banks and mortgage servicers have taken advantage of millions of hardworking homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their mortgages,” said Brown. “This action sends an important message that this kind of outrageous abuse of homeowners won’t be tolerated. This is yet another example of why working families need a strong and independent CFPB.”

Below is a breakdown by county of complaints filed by Ohioans against Ocwen Financial. A consumer complaint database can also be found here.

County/Number of Complaints

Cuyahoga, 117

Franklin, 60

Hamilton, 41

Montgomery, 36

Summit, 32

Lucas, 28

Butler, 20; Lorain, 20

Stark, 18

Lake, 13

Mahoning, 11

Delaware, 11

Clermont, 9; Licking, 9

Richland, 8

Erie, 7; Fulton, 7; Medina, 7

Allen, 6; Portage, 6; Pickaway, 6

Morrow, 5

Greene, 5; Geauga, 5; Clark, 5; Wayne, 5; Trumbull, 5

Hancock, 4; Ashtabula, 4; Warren, 4; Jefferson, 4

Lawrence, 3; Logan, 3; Champaign, 3; Ashland, 3; Perry, 3; Carrol, 3

Knox, 2

Columbiana, 2; Crawford, 2; Clinton, 2; Jackson, 2; Preble, 2; Washington, 2; Madison, 2

Union, 2

Seneca, 2; Miami, 2; Muskingum, 2; Adams, 2

Sandusky, 1; Ross, 1; Tuscarawas, 1; Auglaize, 1; Athens, 1; Henry, 1; Fairfield, 1; Ottawa, 1

Marion, 1

Highland, 1; Huron, 1; Defiance, 1; Harrison, 1; Darke, 1; Wood, 1; Van Wert, 1; Guernsey, 1; Scioto, 1

Unidentified Ohio Counties*, 95


*Note: zip codes with fewer than 20,000 residents are only partially identified in order to protect the privacy of those filing complaints.


COLUMBUS – Sylvain Desjardins, 48, and David Ayotte, 46, both of Maribel, Canada, agreed to plead guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced the filing of the plea documents.

Law enforcement and other agencies involved in this case include: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Ohio University Police Department, the Ohio University Airport, Athens County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Ohio National Guard Counter Drug Program, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Attaché Office Montreal, Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency and Service de Police del la Ville de Montreal.

According to the Statement of Facts filed in support of the plea documents, on March 29, 2017, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations center official in Riverside, Calif. detected an aircraft that departed from the Bahamas and was traveling to Windsor, Ontario, Canada but had diverted to Gordon K. Bush Airport at Ohio University.

The official contacted the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, who, along with agents from HSI, executed a search warrant on the plane upon arrival. While doing so, investigators discovered approximately 132 kilograms or 290 pounds of cocaine.

Desjardins was the pilot and Ayotte was his passenger. The two men intended on flying the cocaine to Canada to then distribute, but discovered that the plane was having mechanical issues.

Change-of-plea hearings before U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley have not yet been scheduled.

Posession with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine is a crime punishable by a range of 10 years to life in prison.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the cooperative investigation of this case by law enforcement, as well as Deputy Criminal Chief Michael J. Hunter, who is representing the United States in this case.


Hillsboro City School District and Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Have Highest Rates of Student Homelessness

NEW YORK (July 27, 2017) — The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH) has released a data snapshot analyzing how many homeless students are enrolled in public schools in Ohio, where in the state they reside and how they perform in school compared to their peers. It is based on data from the 2014-15 school year. This is part of a series of state-specific snapshots.

Highlights from the report:

  • There are more than 27,000 homeless students in Ohio.
  • More than half of Ohio’s homeless students reside in towns, suburbs and rural areas.
  • There are 1.6 homeless children for every 100 public school students in the state.

Ohio’s homeless students are not achieving academically on a par with their housed peers. Troy City Schools had the largest achievement gap. In reading, 75% of all students were proficient, while just 21-39% of homeless students were proficient. In math, 77% of all students were proficient, while no more than 20% of homeless students were proficient.

There were more than 1.26 million homeless children and youth in the 2014-15 school year, across the U.S. Homelessness disproportionately impacts children and families. A quality education can be the most important tool to helping children and families lift themselves out of a recurring pattern of housing instability. To do that, however, these children must first be identified as homeless and then receive the necessary support to ensure that homelessness does not disrupt their learning.

“We cannot afford to ignore the complex challenges faced by homeless children and their families,” says Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, President of ICPH. “Unless we enact common sense public policies that address the educational and economic needs of homeless families, today’s homeless children may become tomorrow’s homeless parents.”

The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness (ICPH) is an independent nonprofit public policy analysis and research organization based in New York City. The Institute produces publications and content designed to dissect the complex issue of family homelessness, and inform and enhance public policy related to homeless families, with an emphasis on the impact and outcomes on children.

Ohio Man Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter for Fentanyl Overdose Death

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene announced that an Ohio man has been arrested on charges connected to the death of a man who overdosed on fentanyl in April.

A Mahoning County grand jury indicted Kyle Christy, 36, of Austintown Township, on the following felony charges:

  • One count of involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree
  • One count of corrupting another with drugs, a felony of the second degree
  • One count of trafficking in cocaine, a felony of the fifth degree

Christy is accused in connection with the death of Randie Steehler, 55, of Youngstown, who overdosed on fentanyl while at a bar on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown on April 15, 2017.

The case was investigated by the Mahoning County Heroin Overdose Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission. The case is being prosecuted by the office of Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.

The Mahoning County Heroin Overdose Task Force is led by the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and was formed specifically to hold accountable those who provide drugs that cause an overdose or overdose death.

“Every overdose is a tragedy, and the people who put deadly drugs in the hands of those suffering from addiction should be held responsible for doing so,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Those who choose to traffic drugs in Mahoning County should be on notice that this task force will aggressively pursue you should the drugs you provide cause an overdose death.”

“The collaboration of law enforcement will continue to work diligently in every overdose death to track down the individual responsible for supplying the narcotics causing the death,” said Sheriff Greene. “I consider this in every way manslaughter.”

In addition to the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, the Mahoning County Heroin Overdose Task Force also includes representatives from the Austintown Township Police Department, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, Mercy Health Police Department, New Middletown Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Christy at his home last night. He is currently in custody at the Mahoning County Jail.

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.

The Buckeye Institute Files Amicus Brief in Janus v. AFSCME

Supporting Free Speech

The Buckeye Institute filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Janus v. AFSCME, supporting Mark Janus and the First Amendment. In the brief, Buckeye shows that unions can survive without compelled contributions and, alternatively, this change will lead unions to better serve their members.

“Forcing employees to pay for speech with which they disagree is a violation of their First Amendment rights,” said Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute. “Neither Mr. Janus, nor anyone else, should ever be forced to pay fees to a union just to keep their jobs. Such compulsion is fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional.”

Illinois, among other states, forces public sector employees who opt out of the union to pay an agency fee, which is supposed to support the union for collective bargaining services, including lobbying on behalf of the union. As a result, Mr. Janus, a child support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is forced to pay fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a government union, to keep his job.

As Mr. Janus said in a January 2016 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune:

“I went into this line of work because I care about kids. But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union. Unfortunately, I have no choice. To keep my job at the state, I have to pay monthly fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, a public employee union that claims to ‘represent’ me…

“The union voice is not my voice. The union’s fight is not my fight. But a piece of my paycheck every week still goes to the union. I am not anti-union. Unions have their place. And some people like them. But unions aren’t a fit for everyone. And I shouldn’t be forced to pay money to a union if I don’t think it does a good job representing my interests.”

The Buckeye Institute’s amicus brief was filed on July 7, 2017.

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution – a think tank – whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

The Buckeye Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit, and tax-exempt organization, as defined by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. As such, it relies on support from individuals, corporations, and foundations that share a commitment to individual liberty, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and limited government. The Buckeye Institute does not seek or accept government funding.

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Staff Reports