STEUBENVILLE - A 29-year-old Columbus man who had been living in Steubenville for several weeks was arrested early Wednesday morning during a crackdown on an alleged statewide drug distribution ring.
Dwayne A. Stewart was arrested at 1302 Orchard St. at 6 a.m. Wednesday by members of the Jefferson County Drug Task Force who transported him to a federal detention center in Columbus.
Stewart was one of 21 people named in a 78-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Another individual is charged in a separate eight-count indictment.
According to Fred Alverson of the U.S. Attorney's office in Columbus, "in the past Columbus has been a central point for receiving drugs. Authorities now believe Columbus has become a drug distribution center for communities in Ohio and reaching into West Virginia. They were distributing drugs in the Youngstown area, southern Ohio and communities in West Virginia."
Alverson described the people named in the indictment as, "mid level marketers supplying local drug dealers."
Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said several non-Steubenville residents were living in the Orchard Street house when the drug task force arrested Stewart.
"The officers found a stolen hand gun and about three-quarters of a kilo of powder cocaine hidden beneath a sink," noted McCafferty.
"This was a very well coordinated effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to crack down on a major drug distribution operation. It sends a strong message to those people who want to deal drugs. And it sends a clear message to those people who may report suspicious activity to the police. A drug investigation may take weeks, months or even a year to put everything together. But we will arrest the dealers," stated McCafferty.
Stewart, along with the 21 other people arrested Wednesday will appear before a U.S. magistrate judge who will determine if they will be granted bond or held without bond until their trials.
Stewart is charged in the indictment with conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and 280 grams or more of a cocaine base along with marijuana.
The indictment also says Stewart and the other defendants to recruit individuals to sell controlled substances, supply distributors with firearms.
"It was further part of the conspiracy to place firearms in strategic locations throughout various locations to intimidate potential robbers and to protect the controlled substances and proceeds stored at various locations. It was further part of the conspiracy to utilize code words when discussing the sale, storage, distribution, manufacture, proceeds and protection of the controlled substances," according to count one of the indictment.
The charges also accuse Stewart and the others of torturing and threatening individuals with serious physical harm who owed money or controlled substances to members of the conspiracy.
Count 24 of the indictment alleges Stewart used a telephone as part of the conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine base.
U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart for the Southern District of Ohio said Wednesday Stewart and the other defendants could face at least 10 years and up to life in prison if convicted of the charges.