DEA agents recover $1 million, 20 pounds of cocaine in Cleveland raid, feds say

Updated Jun 17, 2019; Posted Jun 17, 2019

Kenneth Blackshaw

By Eric Heisig,

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Drug Enforcement Administration found nearly 20 pounds of cocaine and $1 million in cash when searching homes on Cleveland’s East Side on Saturday, the culmination of a months-long investigation into a drug operation that included a trucker hauling drugs from California to Ohio, authorities said.

At the top of the operation is Kenneth Blackshaw, a 53-year-old Cleveland man freed from prison in 2016 because that case was investigated by three East Cleveland cops convicted for ripping off suspected drug dealers, officials said.

The DEA has investigated Blackshaw and what it says is his drug operation since December. Agents tapped one of one of Blackshaw’s phones in April and another phone the following month, according to an affidavit written by agent Heather Grimes and filed Monday.

Blackshaw worked with Joise Salazar Angulo, aka “Gordo,” who lives in Fresno, California and is a part of the Sinaloa cartel, the affidavit states.

After monitoring the comings and goings of several people on Thursday, agents searched a house on Addison Road in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood on Saturday, as well as Blackshaw’s home on East 85th Street.

They found nine bundles of cocaine wrapped for sale and 32 bundles of cash in the Addison Road house, and fentanyl and about 21 ounces of marijuana in the 85th Street home, according to prosecutors.

Along with Blackshaw, officials charged Jorge Alberto Barrera, 43, of Mexico; Jorge Alberto Barrera Gutierrez Jr., 24, of Fresno, California; Miguel Angel Marquez, 44, of Fresno, California, and Donald Knighten 43, of Bedford. Each face a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics.

All five are in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Federal prosecutors said at a hearing Monday that they intend to seek a penalty against Blackshaw based on his previous drug convictions that could subject him to a prison sentence of between 25 years and life.

Blackshaw was released from prison in 2016
after Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Clancy vacated his drug-trafficking conviction.

He was arrested in 2013 based on a case built by East Cleveland police. Clancy in 2014 sentenced Blackshaw to five years in prison.

However, county prosecutors moved to vacate the conviction because his case was worked on by former East Cleveland police Sgt. Torris Moore and officers Antonio Malone and Eric Jones. During a raid, Malone took about $100,000 in cash and took about $30,000, splitting it between himself and others.

The three officers pleaded guilty
to federal corruption charges for actions in investigating Blackshaw and other defendants and were sent to federal prison. Moore got the longest sentence at nine years. In several cases they filed search warrants with falsified information.

Grimes’ affidavit for the new case lays out the level of surveillance agents have put on Blackshaw and his cohorts from Thursday onward, monitoring phone calls and the comings to and from the Addison Road house and other locations.

On Saturday morning, when Blackshaw and the others were arrested, Blackshaw had numerous baggies of cocaine, the affidavit states.

Marquez told agents that Barrera and his son Gutierrez drove a semi-truck to Cleveland, and it was their job to pick up the money and a “legitimate load” and to take everything back to Fresno, according to the affidavit. He said he knew Blackshaw from prison and had connected Blackshaw and Angulo, the affidavit states.

Marquez said Blackshaw paid Angulo about $34,000 per kilogram of cocaine but was supposed to talk to Angulo about lowering that to $32,000, according to agents. However, Angulo left early, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says law enforcement stopped Angulo at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport on Saturday morning. Authorities searched his bag and found $5,000 in cash but allowed him to catch his flight, according to the affidavit.

In recent months, federal and Cuyahoga County officials have tried to draw attention to an explosion in drug overdose deaths attributed to cocaine laced with fentanyl. The county Medical Examiner’s Office said that 45 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved cocaine, the highest percentage in over a decade.