Washington — Federal prosecutors charged 11 people with operating an international drug trafficking operation, alleging they imported kilograms of illicit substances including fentanyl from China, India and Italy for distribution in the U.S.
According to an indictment unsealed in Ohio, Brian Lumbus Jr. allegedly ran the operation while he was in prison on state charges and coordinated with his codefendants to distribute illegal drugs throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Investigators say Giancarlo Miserotti — an Italian national who was recently taken into custody in that country — worked with Lumbus and others to acquire some of the illicit substances from China, first sending them to Italy, and then shipping them to the U.S. to avoid attracting the attention of American customs officials.
"From the confines of the Ohio Penitentiary, Brian Lumbus led an international and interstate drug trafficking organization that brought fentanyl and other, more potent synthetic drugs from overseas factories to the streets of our region," U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio said in a statement. "Several others, both in the United States and outside it, acted in concert with Lumbus to do what he physically could not: obtain, assemble, and repackage those drugs, then mail or deliver them to other conspirators for further distribution."
In February 2021, according to court documents, Miserotti allegedly wrote to an individual in China and posed as an American opioid retailer to discuss pricing for Isotonitazene, a controlled substance. Months later, prosecutors allege Miserotti and Lumbus spoke on the telephone about shipments of new products and narcotics mixtures.
Lumbus' co-defendants allegedly purchased and obtained packages with the illegal drugs to be mixed and distributed across the region, prosecutors said.
"We are going to be getting more s**t down there [Tennessee] this weekend," investigators alleged Lumbus said to another defendant during a phone conversation in October 2022. "I'm going to be mixing up some more s**t that's going to be way stronger than that."
It was during that month that prosecutors alleged five of the 11 co-defendants came into the possession of a mixture containing 40 grams or more of fentanyl, according to court documents, and intended to distribute it.
A month later, discussing a separate shipment, Lumbus allegedly said over the phone to Miserotti, the Italian man, "We got to be careful, man, for a second, man…somebody died," to which Miserotti allegedly responded, "Ohhh…it was too strong." Prosecutors alleged the men were discussing a mixture that contained Metonitazene, a potent opioid.
Some of the co-defendants have been accused of sending tens of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin to buy and distribute the illegal goods, court documents revealed.
"As alleged in today's indictment, the defendants orchestrated an international conspiracy to peddle fentanyl and other deadly drugs across the Ohio Valley, with complete disregard for the lives of their victims," Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement announcing the charges.
Attorneys for the defendants in the federal case were not immediately available for comment. According to the Justice Department, some of those facing charges were arrested Tuesday and transported to federal court in Cleveland.
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