Monday, February 19, 2001

Two more sought in Oxycontin sweep

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The weekend raid of a Covington bar and arrests of seven people on OxyContin trafficking charges stemmed from a five-month investigation by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Cov ington police.

        The arrests come at a time of growing concern about abuse of the painkiller that police are calling “the heroin of the Midwest.”

        Warrants have been issued for two others — whose names were not released Sunday — on charges related to OxyContin use and distri bution, said Covington Police spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Liles.

        A Kenton County grand jury handed up indictments on the nine Feb. 9, Commonwealth Attorney William Crockett said Sunday night.

        The investigation continues, Lt. Col. Liles said.

        “As long as we are getting complaints and people are dealing in OxyContin, we'll keep continuing the operation,” he said.

        The DEA and Covington police worked together in Saturday's crackdown.

        The seven arrested — all from Northern Kentucky — had made illegal buys of OxyContin from DEA agents, Lt. Col. Liles said.

        “It's widespread,” said Covington Police Sgt. Rob Ervin.

        “It's a really horrible drug. We're seeing a lot more of it in Covington,” he said.

        OxyContin-related arrests are skyrocketing in Greater Cincinnati.

        Last year, of 140 arrests by the Cincinnati police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad on charges of illegal possession or trafficking in drugs, 32 were for OxyContin.

        Since its entry into the illicit drug market about a year ago, Tristate police have confiscated more than 13,000 doses of OxyContin.

        The seven people arrested remained in jail Sunday on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance or engaging in organized crime, or both.

        Jail officials said bond was set at $15,000 for each trafficking charge and $30,000 for each organized crime charge.

        Susan Feld, spokeswoman for the DEA's regional office in Detroit, confirmed Sunday that the DEA expects additional arrests in the sweep.

        Three of Saturday's arrests took place at Larry's All-American Cafe, a bar at Ninth and Philadelphia streets just a few blocks from MainStrasse Village.

        Police had a federal search warrant, Lt. Col. Liles said.

        None of the employees or patrons at the bar would comment Sunday.

        Locals said the blocks surrounding the bar, dotted with boarded-up Victorian-style houses, are troubled.

        Several people said they regularly see drug deals in that area.

        The area has been a problem for police for several years, Sgt. Ervin said.

        Tom O'Neill contributed to this story.


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