Three Columbus residents among dozens arrested on charges tied to Mexican drug cartel

Timothy Cox (Left) Randy Mullins (right)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Three Columbus residents are among dozens of people across the country facing charges relating to Sinaloa Drug Cartel drug distribution.

In Columbus, three individuals were arrested Wednesday and charged by federal criminal complaint with money laundering, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Those Columbus residents were identified as Timothy J.Cox, 41, Todd W. Spriggs, 37, and Randy Ellis Mullins, Jr., 40. Cox and Spriggs are each also charged with felon in possession of a firearm.

In addition, 12 people were charged in Cincinnati, accused of distributing fentanyl from Mexico in Middletown, Ohio and sending the proceeds back to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.

Those charged in the Cincinnati case include:


Also Known As



Jose Chavez-Meraz




Rolando Chavez-Garcia



Favrisio Orozco-Meraz

Favi, Gordo, Gordito



Raul Trejo



Middletown, Ohio

Donte Holdbrook



Middletown, Ohio

Mariela Penaloza


Cleveland, Ohio

Charleston Quinn

Buddy, Buddy Rowe


Mason, Ohio

Frank Frazier, Jr.


Middletown, Ohio

Jesus Diaz

Chuy, Chewey


Ontario, Calif.

Jettie Bailey


Middletown, Ohio

Christopher Watkins


Trenton, Ohio

Courtney Bailey


Middletown, Ohio

According to the US Attorney’s office, the investigation began when undercover FBI agents in San Diego learned that a known Sinaloa Cartel money-laundering boss, Jose Lopez-Albarran, coordinated and conducted multiple bulk cash pickups from a drug trafficking organization within Ohio.

Lopez-Albarran was one of 40 defendants charged in California. According to court documents there, he and other members of the Cartel allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from the United States to Mexico between 2015 and 2018. Through the investigation in California, law enforcement discovered multiple drug-trafficking cells throughout the United States.

Prosecutors said a Middletown, Ohio drug-trafficking cell led by Donte Holdbrook would send drug proceeds back to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico through Lopez-Albarran.

According to the indictment, the Ohio drug trafficking organization primarily conducted fentanyl sales in Middletown and received the narcotics from Mexico via Chavez-Meraz. The drugs would initially enter the United States at locations in California and Arizona, where “drug mules” would then retrieve the drugs for transport to Southern Ohio.

When enough money was collected, prosecutors said bulk cash transports back to Mexico would be arranged. Investigators witnessed at least seven such pickups. Cash pickups ranged from $25,000 to $180,000.

On August 12, 2017, Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol stopped Jettie and Courtney Bailey in a traffic stop in Preble County, when they discovered nearly three kilograms of fentanyl and two kilograms of heroin concealed in the vehicle’s fuel tank, according to the US Attorney’s office. Holdbrook was found to be in possession of 366 grams of fentanyl during a traffic stop on December 2, 2017, prosecutors said.

The indictment details at least six drug mule trips organized by Holdbrook from Ohio to multiple locations in California and Arizona, including at least one trip with Christopher Watkins, who had applied to be a reserve auxiliary police officer with the Seven Mile, Ohio Police Department.

It is alleged that Watkins was recruited because his law enforcement experience and police training would aid the group in avoiding detection while traveling with the drugs. Watkins allegedly traveled to Ontario, Calif. to pick up narcotics in exchange for $1,000 cash.

Crimes charged in the Cincinnati cases include:


Potential Sentences

Narcotics Conspiracy

10 years to life in prison

Possession of Fentanyl with Intent to Distribute

(400 grams or more)

10 years to life in prison

Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute

(1 kilogram or more)

10 years to life in prison

Possession of Fentanyl with Intent to Distribute

(40 grams or more)

Five to 40 years in prison

Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises

Up to 20 years in prison

Money Laundering Conspiracy

Up to 20 years in prison

Interstate Travel Facilitating Unlawful Activities

Up to five years in prison

In Lexington, Ky., three individuals – Gerardo Mejia-Palacio, Hector Salas-Pina and Ansar I. McIver – have been charged with crimes related to drug trafficking and money laundering. Another Lexington resident, Shontail M. Hocker, 42, was charged in the Southern District of California with conspiring to commit money laundering, based on her involvement with individuals implicated in the San Diego investigation. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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