A year-long investigation and major drug busts in Lorain, Elyria, Columbia Township, and Cuyahoga County will have a huge impact on the surrounding areas.
The arrests of Wayne Norris, 27, Robert Young, 52, Pamela Pearson, 46, and Tyshun Washington, 28, of Elyria, and George Seymore, 38, Stacy Norris, 28, and Amber Zajac, 23, of Lorain, are expected to put a dent in the county’s heroin problem.
Wayne Norris, Seymore, Washington, and Young were each charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of drug trafficking.
Stacy Norris, Zajac, and Pearson were charged with conspiracy.
Lorain County chief sheriff’s deputy Dennis Cavanaugh led the Lorain County Task Force, which worked with the Elyria and Lorain police departments, the attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the West Shore Enforcement Bureau to orchestrate the spanning raids.
More than a kilo of heroin was seized, making this the biggest heroin bust in county history.
The street value of the drugs is roughly $90,000, Cavanaugh said.
Seven vehicles, three houses, several weapons, and $50,000 in cash were also seized in the raids.
Amherst police Lt. Dan Makruski was among the county SWAT officers who helped raid the suspect homes.
He said they didn’t fit the stereotypical image of what a “drug den” might look like.
Instead, the houses were average-looking and located in average, blue collar neighborhoods in Elyria.
The drug has infiltrated all levels of society and isn’t a low-income or inner-city problem, Makruski said. The typical user can range from teenaged to 30 or 40 years old.
In the 1980s and 1990s, cocaine was the “yuppie or white collar drugs” where crack cocaine was more prevalent among the lower class, unemployed, and blue collar workers. That’s simply not the case with heroin, he said.
“I think heroin transcends all of that and that’s what is scaring most people. Heroin doesn’t know much of a stereotype,” Makruski said.
The busts’ aftermath will have a big impact on local communities, Cavanaugh said.
During a press conference Thursday, authorities said Wayne Norris was the leader of the operation. His supply has been linked to cases throughout the county, including Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington.
“It infected many, many communities,” Cavanaugh said.
Norris’ drug ring is assumed to be one of the biggest heroin distributors in the area.
While capturing Norris and his crew is a win for law enforcement, Cavanaugh said having fewer drugs on the streets is even better.
Drug use also raises crime rates across the board since users are forced to look for other illegal ways to pay for their addictions, Cavanaugh said.
But seven arrests won’t end the war on drugs.
“It’s far from being over,” Cavanaugh said. “This is just one group of many.”
Makruski was very pleased with the arrests, but echoed Cavanaugh’s sentiments.
He said heroin can come from any direction, not just one city such as Lorain or one corridor such as the Ohio Turnpike, a known “super-highway” for trafficking between Detroit and New York.
Nor are the coordinated busts expected to be a silver bullet for the flow into small suburbs, where Lorain County coroner Stephen Evans has said time and again that abuse rivals that in big cities.
“We’re hoping it will significantly impact it, though,” Makruski said.
While common knowledge puts Lorain and Elyria as “ground zero” for distribution, he said heroin is coming in from Ashland and Huron counties, passed along at work and school, and trafficked in white collar and blue collar environments alike.
“With social media and everything, heroin flow has been affected just like information flow. It can come from just about anywhere,” he said.
Caitlyn Wasmundt may be reached at 440-647-3171 or on Twitter @LC_CaitW. Jason Hawk can be contacted at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.