Suspects named in huge Columbiana Co. drug case face judge

Authorities claim the case ties opioid and cocaine sales and use in Columbiana County with drug dealers in the Cleveland area

Operation Big Oak drug bust, Columbiana County, arraignment

LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – As police continue looking for suspects named in a huge drug indictment in Columbiana County, dozens more are all free on bond Wednesday night.

A day after authorities announced the largest drug case ever in the county, about 40 suspects made their first appearances in front of a judge. One by one, they walked up to a podium in Common Pleas Court Wednesday afternoon.

They all got caught up in a 750-count, 250-page indictment authorities claim tied opioid and cocaine sales and use in Columbiana County with drug dealers in the Cleveland area.

Lt. Brian McLaughlin said it’s safe to say the county hasn’t ever seen a case of this magnitude.

“The affected eastern part of the county, we’ve seen this gang operate not only here in East Liverpool but Wellsville, Lisbon, Rogers, Negley, East Palestine, and Columbiana.”

Investigators said Tuesday they started working this case four years ago, utilizing undercover drug buys as well as wiretaps.

“Which are manpower-intensive and required constant monitoring, virtually 24/7, for an extended period of time,” Prosecutor Bob Herron said.

Most of those who appeared in court are facing multiple trafficking and possession charges.

Among them, Thomas Pease, who told the judge he will ultimately be cleared.

“Have to talk to the attorney first and stuff like that but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to exonerate my charges on me,” Pease said.

Also charged is 74-year-old Thomas Fannin — an attorney from East Liverpool who’s charged in the indictment with cocaine trafficking. Appearing in a suit and tie, he asked for more time to hire his own lawyer.

“Your Honor, I haven’t had a chance to consult with counsel yet,” Fannin said.

While all of those appearing in person were released on bond, authorities said they are still looking for dozens more who were named in the indictment.


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