Cocaine arrests lead to suspected drug kingpin - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cocaine arrests lead to suspected drug kingpin

CLEVELAND (AP) - Nearly 50 people have been convicted in a cocaine ring that led to the arrest of a suspected drug kingpin.

Federal prosecutors Ronald Bakeman and David Folmar said a task force of officers, using wiretaps, listened to more than 14,000 phone calls from northeast Ohio to suppliers in Matamoros, Mexico.

The calls led investigators to Osiel Cardenas, who had been wanted by Mexican and American police for years on suspicion of shipping tons of cocaine to the United States.

"Without this case, who knows when Osiel would have been arrested," Bakeman said.

Cardenas was arraigned this month in Mexico. His nephew, Israel, was convicted this year in Cleveland and sentenced to 2½ years in prison on drug charges.

FBI agent Michael Christman testified in a three-week trial that Cardenas' gang fed a drug pipeline to Ohio, where Julio and Jorge Mercado helped distribute to street dealers. The brothers, who have pleaded guilty, testified for prosecutors.

A federal jury Friday convicted their distributors: Kenneth Stover, 35, and Sean Roberts, 32, both of Cleveland; and Gary Huddleston, 36, of Brooklyn. They face at least 20 years in prison when sentenced in July.

The jury acquitted Daniel Lorenzo, 40, of Eastlake, who faced drug-conspiracy charges.

In all, 48 people from northeast Ohio and Brownsville, Texas, have been convicted in the ring.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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