MIAMI COUNTY — The fifth defendant involved in the Tipp City narcotics distribution ring, which was first uncovered in 2014, pleaded guilty and was sentenced for his role in the illegal drug operation.
In addition to receiving prison time, the defendant will also be forfeiting thousands in suspected drug money seized by the state.
On Wednesday, Hugo Zaragoza Avendano, 33, formerly of Tipp City, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree felony engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, one count of second-degree felony conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activities, five counts of third-degree money laundering, and one count of second-degree felony attempted aggravated funding of drug trafficking.
The pleas were part of a plea agreement with the state for Avendano to serve five years in prison, to which Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Gee sentenced Avendano on Wednesday.
Through the aid of a Spanish to English translator during his sentencing hearing, Avendano said, “I want everyone to forgive me for what I did.”
In addition to jail time, Avendano agreed to forfeit money and items received from illegal drug proceeds to the state, including over $80,000 in suspected drug money. The money and items seized include:
• $17,661 seized by the state
• $33,000 in U.S. currency found in a storage unit on Engle Road
• $10,032 in U.S. currency found in a storage unit on County Road 25-A in Tipp City
• $6,289 in U.S. currency found at a residence on the 100 block of First Street in Tipp City
• $17,050 and another $611 in U.S. currency found at a residence on the 100 block of Plum Street in Tipp City
• A Colt Defender series firearm
• Four, newly-purchased home theater systems, a projection screen, and a projector
With Avendano’s plea agreement with the state, he will be avoiding the maximum prison sentences with his charges, which include 11 years for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, eight years for conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activities, 36 months for money laundering, and eight years for attempted aggravated funding of drug trafficking.
Instead, Avendano will be serving five years for each of the charges — with the exception of receiving 36 months for each count of money laundering — and he will serve the sentences concurrently for a total of five years in prison.
Gee also advised Avendano that, as Avendano is not a U.S. citizen, Avendano’s conviction could result his deportation, exclusion of re-entry into the U.S., or denial of naturalization.
Avendano was apprehended by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida on Miami County warrants in July of last year before being extradited and booked into the Miami County Jail in September.
Avendano was taken into custody for his involvement in a large-scale narcotics operation involving the import and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine into the Miami Valley. According to previous reports, eight subjects were tied to the drug ring and had connections to at least 36 kilos — or nearly 80 pounds — of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine that was distributed in the Miami Valley for nearly two years. The drugs were reportedly valued at more than $4 million on the street.
Avendano received a jail credit of 284 days. Once released from prison, Avendano will undergo five years of mandatory post-release control.
The other four co-defendants who were taken into custody have been sentenced in Miami County Common Pleas Court for their involvement last year.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org