A Cincinnati police dispatcher was one of six people arrested last week in a DEA bust that yielded more than 600 pounds of black-market marijuana, a monster stash smuggled all the way to the Midwest from Mexico.
Two hundred pounds ended up at the home of Teneal Poole, 36, who—at least as of recently—worked as a supervisor in the Cincinnati Police Department’s 911 call center, according to a press release from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Local police say that the 600-pound load—brought from Mexico concealed in the walls of a tractor-trailer, driven north across the border and through multiple states—was part of a cartel-connected drug operation. They did not name which cartel, but said more arrests are likely in an “ongoing” investigation.
“This is definitely not the first load they did,” said DEA Agent Tim Reagan at a recent news conference called to announce the bust. “We are confident four or five times at least they ran this up into this area.”
Poole told authorities that the marijuana wasn’t hers, but her boyfriend’s—but she also copped to being aware that the garage-sized stash was in the house, according to authorities. Also arrested at Poole’s suburban Cincinnati home was Damian Gray, 40.
Poole is not a sworn police officer but a civilian employee who has worked as a supervisor in the local 911 call center, according to Cincinnati.com. As of late last week, Poole had yet to be fired or even disciplined; her “job status is being reviewed,” Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black told reporters.
Taking down this crew took an investigation of longer than a month, authorities said. Apparently cops became familiar enough with the smugglers’ routine to observe them removing bales of marijuana from the walls of the tractor-trailer in the parking lot of an antique mall. Undercover agents and sheriffs’ deputies watched them at work for six hours—loading the weed from the trailer into a U-Haul for delivery—before swooping in.
In Ohio these days, six hundred pounds of cartel cannabis is worth about $500,000, according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones. One of the men arrested is apparently a Mexican national here illegally who’d been previously deported, Jones said.
Ohio is one of the states hit hardest by the country’s opiate epidemic. The state has approved a medical marijuana program, but cannabis is still as long as a year away from patients and caregivers, who are still waiting on state lawmakers and health officials to decide on the particulars of who can grow and sell, how, and where.
In the meantime, operations like the quarter-ton cartel connection will have incentive to keep smuggling reefer from across the border—a high-risk operation that for a moment appeared to be on the way out. Cartel-connected cannabis farmers in Mexico have been hit hard by plummeting prices, a phenomenon caused by decreased demand for illegal weed in states that have legalized domestic recreational or medical marijuana production.
Ohio sheriffs repeated that line. Here’s Jones, describing the state of local drug affairs:
“The price of cocaine went up substantially two days after the presidential election. We have also been told the Mexican cartel is starting to relook at the marijuana coming across the border because of the states legalizing marijuana and they are starting to grow more poppies. We are told they are going to be doing more heroin, more meth, and more cocaine… until then the marijuana is still here.”
As for those other drugs Jones mentioned, police in southwestern Ohio have been busy cracking down on them, according to local reports, with a string of busts over the past six weeks. It’s almost as if the drugs—and the cartel—will keep coming as long as there’s demand.