AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Three people are in jail after the Drug Enforcement Agency raided a house in Austintown.
Four children were taken from the Notre Dame Avenue home, and the suspects — Jose Martinez, 41; Lilia Jimenez, 31; and Bruce Cuevas, 61 — were arrested on drug-related charges at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Tuesday’s drug bust was conducted while children in the neighborhood were waiting for the school bus.
Cora Lagamba and her children saw 10 to 14 vehicles with flashing lights come down Notre Dame Avenue.
“Then they started getting out of the car, they went to the neighbors knocking on the doors, and then they went to the original house and kicked in the door,” Lagamba said.
Mike Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, said the bust was a big deal.
“These aren’t just some guys on the street corner,” he said. “This was a group engaged in shipping kilos of cocaine across state lines.”
Local, state and federal officers began the investigation into the group in March by tracking cell phone calls and conducting surveillance. The surveillance discovered people dropping off a black bag at the Austintown home, and a man involved in the alleged drug trafficking was stopped by Ohio State Highway Patrol on Interstate 71 with 17 pounds of cocaine in the vehicle — all hidden inside a speaker, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Between April 9 and April 15, 2015, investigators listened in on phone conversations between Martinez, Jimenez and the man that investigators say was involved in transporting the cocaine out of the state. According to the criminal complaint, investigators heard Martinez planning the cocaine deliveries, and Cuevas and Martinez met with the driver, who attempted to leave the area with the cocaine, according to investigators.
The men used code words like “rabbit,” “chihuahua” and “laundry” to conceal what they were doing. One shipment was reportedly delayed during an accident in Interstate 80.
During this time, people in the neighborhood said they had no idea what was going on.
“We met them, but we didn’t socialize. They were a nice family. They had four kids that would come out and play in the summertime, go to school. But we didn’t talk like one-on-one, except to say, ‘Hi, hello, how you doing?'” Lagamba said.
A DEA raid was also conducted on Tuesday in East Liverpool, in relation to the Austintown raid.
The Morning Journal reports that agents executed a search warrant at 833 Bradshaw Ave. A man was placed in handcuffs while officers searched the house, and he was taken back inside once the initial search was completed, according to the Morning Journal.
The house on Bradshaw Avenue is owned by Brian M. Brokaw, according to the county auditor’s website.
Five names were mentioned in the criminal complaint. The U.S. Attorney representing northern Ohio said the other suspects listed in the complaint likely live out of state or out of the country.