Saturday, July 27, 2002

Police seize $170,000 of cocaine

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Two young men sold undercover officers 5 ounces of cocaine — “a huge amount,” Butler County Sheriff's officials said.

        Within hours, that Thursday sale led to six arrests and the sheriff's office's largest cocaine seizure ever: about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) with a street value of $170,000.

        “This is a significant bust for Butler County, and we're pretty proud of it,” Sheriff's Lt. Greg Blankenship said at a news conference Friday.

        Police said undercover officers purchased the initial 5 ounces of cocaine Thursday afternoon from Brandon Keith Houlihan, 21, and Joshua J. Duncan, 22, on Cherokee Drive in St. Clair Township, south of Hamilton.

        Further investigation led to John Norman Carter, 31, of St. Clair Township. Police seized about 2 ounces of the drug and a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun from his home.

        Then sheriff's investigators learned about a “major delivery” planned for a bowling alley parking lot Thursday night. After four hours of surveillance, police arrested Eddy Rafial Encarnacion, 34, a Dominican Republic citizen who has been living in Hamilton. He had a gym bag containing about 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.

        Lt. Blankenship said it was “highly unusual” that such young people could get access to such large amounts of cocaine. Normally, cocaine is sold in 1-gram units for about $100 each, police said.

        Mr. Encarnacion is being held on a charge of drug trafficking, a first-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to 10 years. Under a major drug offender specification, he would get an additional mandatory 10 years if convicted.

        Police say Mr. Encarnacion supplied Mr. Carter, who then provided the drug to his neighbor, Mr. Houlihan, as well as Mr. Duncan, of Ross Township and a 17-year-old St. Clair Township teen. Each of those suspects faces charges of trafficking and possession, second-degree felonies with sentences of two to eight years each upon conviction.

        Mr. Houlihan and Mr. Carter have been released, while Mr. Encarnacion and Mr. Duncan remained jailed Friday evening.

        The sixth suspect, Logan Lees, 22, of Sycamore, Ind., was charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was released.

        Although the investigation leading to the arrests began four months ago, sheriff's investigators say the alleged dealers arrested Thursday were unknown to them.

        “We didn't know them from Adam until we took 'em down,” said Butler County Sheriff's Detective Jeff Riegert.

        Investigators didn't know the source of Mr. Encarnacion's supply, but they said his homeland in the Caribbean was a possibility.

        Lt. Blankenship said it was apparent that Mr. Encarnacion was “a very large player.”


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