Thursday, June 07, 2001

2 charged in cocaine sales

South Lebanon drug trafficking is targeted

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON - Two South Lebanon men are facing a string of felony drug charges after their arrest early Wednesday in what police say was an extensive cocaine operation.

        Chester A. Sandlin, 59, and Willie Cole, 62, were taken into custody just after 4 a.m., said John Burke, commander of the Warren County Drug Task Force.

        Mr. Sandlin is charged with nine counts of trafficking in drugs. Mr. Cole faces six counts of trafficking.

        Both are in the Warren County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.

        The arrests ended a four-month investigation into cocaine trafficking in South Lebanon. Police seized more than $6,000 in cash, three vehicles and a handgun, Mr. Burke said.

        Both men are accused of selling cocaine to a large number of people from throughout Warren, Hamilton and Clermont counties for at least five years, Mr. Burke said.

        Authorities do not believe the men are part of a larger drug trafficking network.

        The investigation, a joint effort of the Warren task force and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, was sparked after complaints about alleged drug trafficking at Mr. Sandlin's High Street home and Mr. Cole's home in the 430 block of Morrow Road.

        “We feel certain it's been going on for several years, and this has been a big stride in attacking cocaine distribution in Warren County,” Mr. Burke said.

        “We had complaints of constant traffic in and out of these locations.”

        He could not determine how much cocaine or money may have flowed in and out of the residences.

        Most of the transactions were made in cash, said police, who also seized numerous personal and business checks.

        Police have also seized or frozen more than $150,000 in bank accounts and cash belonging to Mr. Sandlin.

        South Lebanon officials, who have seen this little vil lage grow by several hundred homes in recent years, were pleased with the arrests.

        “Any community would like nothing (criminal) to go on,” Mayor Jim Smith said. “The community benefits as a whole when actions like that are removed.”


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