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Mexican man used smuggled phone to traffic coke, fentanyl

SEPTEMBER 12--An imprisoned illegal immigrant used a smuggled cellphone to run a drug trafficking operation that distributed fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, federal prosecutors allege.

Jose Lozano-Leon, 41, was one of 10 defendants named in a 17-count felony indictment filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. Lozano-Leon, a Mexican national, is identified as the head of the drug trafficking organization.

Lozano-Leon has been locked up in the privately-owned Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown since late last year, when he pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the U.S.. Lozano-Leon was convicted in 2008 for conspiracy to distribute heroin. After serving a federal prison sentence, he was deported to Mexico.

Almost immediately upon being locked up in 2018, Lozano-Leon obtained a cellphone and continued operating the drug ring he allegedly headed while on the street. Lozano-Leon, the indictment alleges, used the contraband phone to send texts and make calls to co-conspirators.

Remarkably, Lozano-Leon even used his phone to exchange texts with an associate who was being held at a federal prison in Michigan (and who also secured a cellphone).

As charged in the indictment, Lozano-Leon arranged for narcotics purchases, courier pickups, and money transfers while incarcerated. In texts and calls, Lozano-Leon had $25,000 sent to Phoenix for the purchase of fentanyl and $7500 mailed to Washington State for the a pot buy.

In a May phone call, Lozano-Leon asked an associate how long it would take to sell cocaine that cost him $33,000 per kilo. In another conversation, he assured a cohort that the drug ring could sell 100 pounds of marijuana every two weeks.

Investigators charge that Lozano-Leon’s organization specialized in fake Oxycodone pills that actually contained heroin and fentanyl. Lozano-Leon referred to the counterfeit blue painkillers as Skittles, texting that his “people” were traveling to New York City to pick up 4000 pills.

During an April 26 conversation, Lozano-Leon spoke to an associate about how strong he wanted fentanyl pills to be. On a scale of one to 10, Lozano-Leon replied that he desired pills that were an eight or nine, since he wanted to avoid customer overdoses.

In an April 13 phone call with an associate who was preparing to travel to deliver money for a drug purchase, Lozano-Leon “stressed the importance of making a good impression” with the supplier, according to the indictment. Referring to the seller, Lozano-Leon texted, “THEY GOT ALL THE OTHER WORK. FIRST IMPRESSIONS R VERY IMPORTANT SO THEY CAN TRUST US AND SEND US THE WHITE CHINESE BITCHES.” Lozano-Leon, investigators allege, was referring to heroin and cocaine when he referred to “white Chinese bitches.”

The takedown of Lozano-Leon’s trafficking organization was aided by a confidential source who appears to have been flipped by Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

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