Sept. 16, 2019
Lee Brown

An illegal Mexican immigrant ran a huge drug-smuggling ring from an Ohio prison — using a cellphone that was dropped into the prison by a drone, according to authorities.

Jose Lozano-Leon, 41, led his gang from Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, where he was serving 18 months for illegal re-entry into the US after being deported in 2017, the US Attorney’s Office said.

He was allegedly able to talk to his henchmen thanks to a contraband cellphone that Drug Enforcement Administration officers believe was dropped into the Youngstown prison by drone, according to

Lozano-Leon was allegedly the boss of at least nine gang members who helped ship fentanyl stamped into pills, heroin and cocaine from Mexico, the attorney’s office said. The pills, which the gang referred to as “Skittles,” were made to resemble oxycodone.

The kingpin was one of 10 people charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in the 17-count indictment filed in federal court in Cleveland on Thursday.

“The lead defendant is accused of running an international drug-trafficking organization from a jail cell in Ohio,” said Justin Herdman, the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

“He has come to this country illegally and allegedly made his living selling the same kinds of drugs that are killing our friends and neighbors. He is an importer of pain and will be prosecuted accordingly.”

Two other Mexicans were among those charged: Mario Hernandez-Leon, 31, and Clemente Gutierrez-Meraz, 27. The others were all from the Cleveland area: Lorne Franklin, 45, Belen Orozco-Sigala, 36, Najee Amir Evans, 28, Troy Pinnock, 47, Damon Bybee, 60, and Montez Vanburen, 38.

All but two are in federal custody, according to