MARION, Ohio (WCMH) — More than 30 people have been arrested in connection to two drug trafficking conspiracies in Marion, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio announced Thursday.

Federal, county and local law enforcement identified 31 people in two separate drug trafficking operations who are accused of distributing fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine in Marion from 2020 to mid-June. Some are accused of conspiring across both operations to distribute drugs.

“Illegal drugs — and fentanyl in particular — continue to take a significant toll on the American public, all too often with deadly results,” U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lutzko said a press conference Thursday. “We continue to see such overdose deaths in Marion and throughout Ohio.”

Federal officials have charged 24-year-old Christopher Payne as the lead conspirator of a Marion-based drug operation that operated from last June to June 14. He and 13 other defendants from Marion, Lorain and Wyandot counties have been charged with 18 counts, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution and the use of communications devices to facilitate drug trafficking.

Payne is accused of obtaining fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs, processing cocaine into “crack” cocaine and coordinating a team of co-conspirators to conceal their trafficking from law enforcement. The co-conspirators sourced the drugs from Marion and Columbus, according to the indictment, and used phones and social media to distribute them.

Payne was also charged in the second indictment, in which 35-year-old Justin Stanley is accused of leading a trafficking operation since September 2020. Stanley, Payne and 16 other suspects have been charged with 23 drug-related crimes.

Law enforcement seized 3 kilograms of fentanyl, 2 kg of cocaine, more than a kilogram of methamphetamine, 15 firearms and more than $25,500 in cash, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Some individuals are suspected of personally distributing more than a kilogram each of opioids, and suspects in both indictments are accused of conducting counter-surveillance on law enforcement during the investigation.

On Wednesday, 20 suspects were arrested and taken to Cleveland for arraignment. The arraignment of the additional 11 suspects is forthcoming, Lutzko said.

The suspects charged in the Payne operation are as follows:

  • Michael Worthington, 28, of Marion
  • Dave Davis, 43, of Marion
  • Matthew Taylor, 28, or Marion
  • Tyler Landrum, 26, of Marion
  • Dalton Gruber, 42, of Marion
  • Donovan Caskey, 28, of Marion
  • Crystal Rivers, 42, of Green Camp
  • Gerald Houseworth, 31, of Marion
  • Sheena Stolz, 34, of Upper Sandusky
  • Anthony Clark, 53, of Marion
  • Christina Weaver, 25, of Marion
  • Steven Mollet, 27, of Marion
  • Starla Artressia, 26, of Marion

Suspects charged in the Stanley operation are as follows:

  • Freddie Sanchez, 36, of Lorain
  • Dustin Russell, 32, of Marion
  • Walter Thomas, 41, of Marion
  • Austin Hogan, 29, of Marion
  • Kyle Rentschler, 26, of Prospect
  • Donna Wrick, 31, of Marion
  • Lawrence Dempster, 49, of Marion
  • Ryan Pheasant, 30, of Marion
  • Michael Cottrill, 22, of Marion
  • Casey Taylor, 47, of Marion
  • Derek Hesson, 29, of Marion
  • Jacob Martin, 28, of Marion
  • James Holsinger, 29, of Marion
  • Jason Smith, 47, of Marion
  • Jeffery Hall, 31, of Marion
  • Dustin Freeman, 36, of Marion

The investigation was part of a collaboration among local, county and federal law enforcement, including the Marion-Metrich Drug Task Force, FBI Mansfield, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and other state agencies.