A federal indictment returned this week charging individuals from Ohio, California and Mexico dismantles a sophisticated drug trafficking network that served as one of the largest suppliers of illicit substances to West Virginia, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld announced on Thursday that Juan Carlos Magana, 41, of Sinaloa, Mexico, and Personne “Rico” McGhee, 52, of Bellaire, Ohio, were charged Tuesday with conspiring to distribute large quantities of fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Magana allegedly coordinated with McGhee and others to have drugs shipped from the southwest border near Mexico to Ohio via tractor-trailer.
In return, McGhee made large cash payments to individuals who flew from California to the Pittsburgh International Airport, picked up the money, and then immediately boarded outbound flights.
According to the press release, McGhee used a network of redistributors to sell the controlled substances in eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia, including Weirton, Wheeling, Morgantown, Fairmont and Clarksburg.
McGhee was arrested in October 2022 and during a search of his home agents recovered approximately 75 pounds of cocaine, 19 pounds of methamphetamine, and nearly 5 pounds of fentanyl, the release said.
Simultaneous with McGhee’s apprehension, arrests and searches occurred at the airport in Pittsburgh and at homes and businesses in West Virginia and Ohio.
During the raids, agents recovered $295,038 in cash and five firearms in addition to the drugs.
“Rico McGhee was the most notorious drug dealer in the region and Juan Magana was his primary supplier,” said Ihlenfeld. “Due to the tremendous efforts of our investigators, one of the greatest sources of illicit drugs to West Virginia has been shut down.”
Six others were charged in the indictment Tuesday, including Christopher Jason Kirk, 42, of Tracy, Calif., Justin Dwayne Martin, 34, of San Diego, Andres Dominguez, 25, of San Diego, Roger Allen Woods, II 48, of Bellaire, Ohio, Zachary Tyler Menough, 31, of Shadyside, Ohio, and Sherman L. Griffin, 45, of Martins Ferry, Ohio.
Several West Virginians allegedly involved in the McGhee network were charged prior to this week’s indictment, including Ronald Shaw, 51, of Wheeling, and Chellsie S. Boyer, 32, of Weirton, both charged with methamphetamine distribution; Jaron Wells, 36, of Wheeling, for fentanyl distribution; and Rocco Pandoli, 34, of Wheeling, and Ebony Miranda Webb, 34, of Wheeling, both charged with cocaine distribution.
According to the release, McGhee, Kirk, Martin, Dominguez, Griffin, Shaw and Wells remain incarcerated.
Along with the nearly $300,000 seized during the arrests and searches, 11 parcels of real estate, five handguns and three pieces of jewelry are all subject to forfeiture.
Authorities also seized several vehicles used in the conspiracy, including a GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Tahoe, a Mercedes G-Class 450, a Bentley Continental, a BMW 535, a Cadillac XTS, a Chevrolet Cruze, a Buick Lacrosse, a Nissan Sentra, a Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled motorcycle, a Freightliner motorhome and an Acura.
The case was investigated by the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force, which includes officers from the Wheeling Police Department, the West Virginia State Police, the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Ihlenfeld’s office also noted the investigation was supported by the ATF, the Marshall County Drug Task Force, the Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug Task Force, the Allegheny County (Pa.) Police and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Belmont County Sheriff’s Office and the Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office in Ohio provided assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn M. Adkins is representing the government.
Each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the potential penalties will vary for each defendant and depend on the quantity of drugs attributed to each and their criminal history, if any.