|Now it’s all in the crapper: About 6,000 pounds of marijuana was seized at a Columbus, Ohio warehouse. Another 2,000 pounds was found at a vacant condo in suburban Hilliard.|
Drug Enforcement Administration officials have charged 13 people in an alleged scheme to ship tons of marijuana to Ohio stashed between packages of toilet paper.
The whole scheme went down the crapper Saturday when nearly 8,000 pounds of marijuana was found in two locations. The pot had a value of more than $5 million, claimed Anthony Marotta, the top DEA official in Columbus, Ohio, report Kathy Linn Gray and Jim Woods of The Columbus Dispatch.
Marotta said about 6,000 pounds of marijuana — more than three tons — was found hidden in a delivery of toilet paper rolls at a Columbus warehouse.
Another 2,000 pounds of pot was found in a vacant condominium in suburban Hilliard, Ohio, Marotta said.
The group allegedly used U-Haul trucks filled with toilet paper to hide the pot, authorities said, reports Ashleigh Barry of WBNS-10TV.
All 13 suspects made appearances Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbus. Each was charged with one federal count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana.
A conviction carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, as well as a $4 million fine.
The arrests came after a raid at a South Side warehouse at 321 Dering Avenue in Columbus, about two miles from where most of the central Ohio suspects lived. That raid led DEA agents to search a homne on Henderson Road in Upper Arlington.
No drugs were found there, but authorities claimed “information at the site” led them to an apartment complex on Leap Road in Hilliard.
“We leapfrogged onto another address in Hilliard,” Marotta said.
Thousands of pounds of marijuana were found at the Hilliard address, Marotta claimed, and three of the suspects were arrested there.
The South Side warehouse was used as a distribution center for marijuana brought to Ohio from Mexico, authorities claimed.
“These people were then breaking (marijuana) down into smaller amounts for distribution on the streets,” Marotta claimed.
Randy Ray Castle Sr., 49, was charged along with his son Randy Ray Castle Jr., 29, and his daughter Tiffany A. Castle, 22. The father and son both live at 603 Harland Drive; Tiffany lives nearby at 3452 Libby Drive.
Also charged was Benjamin G. Cotton, 29, reported to be living with Tiffany Castle, along with Clifford E. Jonson, 53, of 2996 Parsons Avenue, and Donald K. Stewart, 53, of 2990 Parsons Avenue.
The others who were arrested are from Texas, Arizona, and Mexico, with at least two of them in the country illegally, according to Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.
They were identified by U.S. Marshals as Omar Perales and Manuel Flores III, both of Edinburg, Texas; David Guerra of Pharr, Texas; Luis Alberto Gutierrez of Austin, Texas; Emmanuel Dale Butler of Peoria, Arizona; and Samuel Mascias-Martinez of Jalisco, Mexico.
All 13 suspects were in the Franklin County Jail Monday night.
Castle Sr., who DEA agents claimed was leading the marijuana-trafficking enterprise, was involved in another pot-trafficking case in the 1990s, according to authorities.
He was sent to prison for five years for participating in a cannabis-smuggling ring run by Upper Arlington businessman Robert W. Hill.
Hill’s drug ring operated from 1988 to 1993, bringing three tons of marijuana into Columbus from Arizona and Nevada. Hill, who was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, also was accused of laundering $2.5 million in drug money.
His family owned Scioto Downs and Hill Distributing Company, a beer distributor.