LORAIN — A federal grand jury has indicted two Lorain men on charges they allegedly possessed the powerful painkiller fentanyl with the intent to sell it.
Julius Ruffin, 39, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, while Aalijah Joel Rico, 24, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman's office announced Wednesday.
Ruffin had nearly 100 grams of the drug mixture on Oct. 19, according to the indictment. Rice had 117 grams of fentanyl on Oct. 12, according to the indictment.
The cases were investigated by the Elyria Police Department, Lorain Police Department, Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s Office, the DEA and the FBI.
The cases were investigated as part of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge, or S.O.S., which seeks to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas and to identify wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers, according to Herdman.
Lorain County was selected as a pilot site for Operation S.O.S., and to date nearly 40 people have been indicted as part of the program.
Originally intended as a painkiller for cancer patients and those suffering chronic pain, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the DEA. It is also mixed with or “cut” with heroin and other drugs to increase their potency, and has been blamed for many fatal and non-fatal overdose deaths in Ohio and across the country in recent years.
Ruffin has prior arrests for trafficking in cocaine, assault on a law enforcement officer, simple assault, domestic violence and violating a protection order, according to Chronicle-Telegram archives.
During Rico's Oct. 12 arrest, Lorain police narcotics agents allegedly found him in the middle of a drug deal at Cooper Foster Park Plaza, authorities told the Chronicle in an Oct. 16 article.
One gram of fentanyl was seized at that time, and an additional 118 grams allegedly recovered from his West 37th Street residence. That came a week after officer seized $17,000 in cash from Rico's vehicle during an Oct. 5 traffic stop.