4 plead guilty in 'major' drug ring

Posted at 11:18 AM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 11:26:18-05

CINCINNATI – Four Cincinnati residents pleaded guilty to crimes related to “a major cocaine and heroin trafficking ring,” officials announced Thursday.

A grand jury indicted five people on 23 counts last April. The indictment outlines the group’s conspiracy to facilitate an illegal drug business, according to U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart. Officials previously said the group processed, cut, packaged and stored cocaine and heroin in stash houses across the city.

Officials found more than $1 million in cash while executing search warrants in the case, according to Stewart. The government also seized seven firearms, three Cincinnati properties, give vehicles including two luxury vehicles and a motorcycle, multiple pieces of jewelry, Gucci and Rolex watches, two ballistic vests, several “mink” fur coats and vests, 13 designer handbags and Beats headphones and earbuds.Christopher Whitfield, 42, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces as much as 20 years in prison.

Tonia Whitfield, 41, pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering. She faces up to 20 years in prison per count and was previously sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Steven Griffin, 40, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He faces a total of 50 years in prison for the two charges and was previously sentenced to 87 months in prison.

Icierra Martin-Bronson, 38, pleaded guilty to two charges of money laundering and faces as much as 20 years in prison per count.

The fifth defendant charged in the case, Dy Shay Anderson, has not entered a plea agreement, according to court records. Anderson’s attorney wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Officials praised the collaboration between multiple agencies in the investigation and arrests.

“IRS Criminal Investigation follows the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations, especially when individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money,” said Guy A. Ficco, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS, Criminal Investigation. “Today's announcement is a direct result of the excellent partnership IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Cincinnati Police Department has in combating major drug trafficking organizations, which have such a negative impact on our community."