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Middletown man sentenced to 25 years for Mexican cartel-linked drug conspiracy

Donte Holdbrook sold kilos of fentanyl and heroin
middletown fentanyl ring
Posted at 1:23 PM, Jan 12, 2022

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black sentenced 28-year-old Donte Holdbrook to 25 years in federal prison for being "the leader" of a Middletown-based drug trafficking organization dealing directly with the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Holdbrook faced up to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge in October 2018.

"The facts here are horrific," Judge Black told Holdbrook during the sentencing hearing. "We reap what we sow."

Holdbrook was among 12 people charged in March 2018 with helping the drug cartel sell kilos of fentanyl and heroin in southwestern Ohio. According to authorities at the time of the arrest, Holdbrook traveled to Mexico to purchase drugs from the cartel.

A group of associates would transport the drugs back to Middletown, at which point Holdbrook would break the drugs down into small amounts and distribute them to a network of dealers. A portion of the profits from those sales went back to Mexico, where Holdbrook would return to continue the cycle.

At the time of his arrest, Holdbrook was found with nearly 13 ounces of fentanyl in his car, according to federal prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors said drug overdoses in Middletown dropped by about one-third while Holdbrook was in jail awaiting trial.

In 2019, one-time cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. But the Sinaloa Cartel remains one of the largest drug trafficking organizations active in North America.

Holdbrook's sentencing hearing was emotional at times.

Several of his relatives cried during the hearing. A sister sobbed as she left the courtroom.

"These have been the hardest, darkest and longest days of my life," Holdbrook told the judge. "I'm going to take full responsibility for what I've done. I just don't want this to be the end of my life."

Holdbrook pledged to stay out of trouble after his release from prison and to give back to the community.

His defense attorney, Christopher Pagan, said Holdbrook hadn't caused any problems in jail during his four years in custody.

Holdbrook didn't have a juvenile court record and this was his first felony conviction, according to Judge Black.

Black said he had weighed Holdbrook's history, the defendant's statement and his family support when deciding to give Holdbrook a much lower sentence.

Holdbrook, who will be credited for his four years in jail, could be released from prison before he turns 50.