Deputies make record bust in quiet Ohio township


CLEVELAND (AP) — Except for a sprawling state park and a
unicycle drill team that was once a fixture in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day
parades, Newbury Township in rural northeast Ohio is not known for much.
Last week, it became the site of the biggest drug seizure in the history of one of Ohio’s richest
sheriff’s deputies on June 11 ventured down a 100-yard driveway off a
secluded cul-de-sac to serve a search warrant on what they thought might
be a small narcotics operation. What they found far exceeded their
Deputies seized 6 pounds of pure crystal
methamphetamine, 2.2 pounds of black tar heroin, 100 pounds of
marijuana, $128,000 in cash and 10 guns, most of which were loaded and
kept at the ready inside bedrooms and other parts of the house. Most of
the drugs and money were stored behind a false wall in the basement. The
drugs had a street value of about $1.5 million, and an official said it
was possible the operation was connected to a Mexican cartel.
arrested a husband and wife who had been renting the upscale home for
several years along with two other men, said Chief Scott Hildenbrand of
the Geauga County sheriff’s department.
According to Hildebrand,
the case in quiet Newbury Township began June 3, when a deputy sheriff
on routine patrol noticed a beat-up panel truck parked in the middle of a
narrow road called Park View Drive. He stopped and asked people
gathered around the truck if anything was wrong. They were evasive,
telling him the truck had broken down and help was on the way.
deputy left, but did not go far. Hidden from view, he watched someone
jump into the truck and drive it to the house, Hildenbrand said.
Eight days later, sheriff’s deputies, armed with a search warrant, raided the five-bedroom, 2 ½-bath
said the suspects and their expensive rental dispels any myths about
drug dealers keeping a low financial profile by living in poorer
neighborhoods. Two luxury cars, an older model Jaguar and a Cadillac
Escalade, were parked next to the house, Hildenbrand said. Newbury
Township is about 30 miles east of Cleveland, a rural bedroom community
in a county that is Ohio’s second-richest per capita.
The suspects
have been charged with felony possession of drugs, although more
charges are likely. The husband and wife are Dominic Bangera, 43, and
Jacqueline Sanchez, 36. Also charged were Raymond Utt, 36, and Omar
Solano-Lopez, 21. Bangera is a British citizen. Solano-Lopez is a
Mexican citizen in the U.S. illegally, Hildenbrand said.
attorney declined to comment. An attorney for Sanchez said he had no
comment Monday. It’s unclear who represents Bangera and Solano-Lopez.
has a criminal record in Ohio for cultivating marijuana and Sanchez has
a fleeing and eluding conviction, Hildenbrand said. While Utt does not
have a criminal record, Solano-Lopez has a long rap sheet in California.
said it was possible the operation was connected to a Mexican cartel.
The people living in the house had been traveling back and forth to
California and Solano-Lopez recently arrived in Newbury Township from
California, Hildenbrand said. Crystal methamphetamine and black-tar
heroin are primarily produced in Mexico by the cartels.
When the
deputies saw what they had during the raid, they called in members of a
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force.
"We thought it was a little smaller operation," Hildenbrand said.
Corley, resident agent in charge of the Cleveland office of the DEA,
declined to comment about the case except to praise the Geauga sheriff’s
"They did some outstanding work," Corley said.

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