Rural Ohio’s drug pipeline includes Pike Co., other places on U.S. 23

PIKE CO., Ohio (WCMH)–With the discovery of eight bodies and marijuana grow operations in Pike County, there is now an intense focus on rural Ohio and the role it plays in a major drug pipeline and international drug cartels.

NBC4’s lead investigative reporter Duane Pohlman digs deep in this illegal drug trade, connected in the country by a small highway and secret operations in the countryside of our state.

Even during a solemn memorial service last Friday in Piketon for the eight family members executed in their homes, some people whispered about the role drugs, crime and the cartels may have played in the mass murders.

fcso 2While no suspects or motives have been offered on the murders, Pike County is part of a rural drug connection that is pinned by a pipeline running along U.S. Highway 23.

Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott knows all about the influence of that highway and drugs from Ohio’s countryside.

On a map of Franklin County laid out on his conference table, Sheriff Scott wasted no time running his finger along U.S. 23 when asked where the drugs are coming from.

On his wall, a picture of a very young Scott is pictured in front of 20 kilos of cocaine from a Columbian cartel.

fcsoScott was part of a task force that secured the illegal load in 1989, and lots of other drugs which he points out all traveled along U.S. 23.

“I actually bought dope in Pike County,” Scott said.

In September 2010, then-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced clear evidence migrants from Mexico operating massive marijuana grow operations in rural sections of southeast Ohio and Muskingum County.

Cordray was clear who was behind those operations, too.

“We believe Mexican drug cartels are largely responsible,” Cordray announced.

The campsites had huge marijuana plants, living quarters and evidence of armed guards.

In 2012, a similar campsite was discovered in Pike County.

While it’s unclear what lead to the executions of family members in Pike County, the picture of crime, drugs and a pipeline from rural Ohio is coming in to focus.

“To think that it’s not an international problem that’s having an influence here in Central Ohio, of course it is,” Sheriff Scott said, adding the importance of that small highway “to have a geographical location that can reach all these geographical destinations so easily, it’s what every distributor would want.”

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