More Big Oak suspects in court

LISBON –Six people indicted as part of Operation Big Oak were sentenced this week, five of whom received probation for their crimes.

Operation Big Oak was the joint effort between state and local law enforcement to disrupt the illegal drug network that operated between Cleveland and Columbiana County. The three-year investigation concluded with 102 secret indictments being issued in November 2017.

The following defendants were in county Common Pleas Court this week to be sentenced before Judge C. Ashley Pike:

–Elizabeth J. Yano, 30, of Newell, W.Va., was sentenced to four years’ probation after pleading guilty to five counts of cocaine possession and seven counts of aggravated drug possession.

–Matt Fabian, 44, of Weirton, W.Va., was sentenced to four years’ probation after pleading guilty to one count each of attempted drug trafficking and cocaine possession and three counts of aggravated drug trafficking. Fabian was given credit for 19 days spent in the county jail.

–Pamela L. Shingleton, 54, of New Cumberland, W.Va., was sentenced to four years’ probation after pleading guilty to eight counts of aggravated drug possession and one count of cocaine possession. Shingleton was given credit for one day spent in the county jail.

–Diane K. Wells, 53, St. Clair Avenue, East Liverpool, was sentenced to four years’ probation after pleading guilty to seven counts of aggravated drug possession and one count of cocaine possession.

–Serena Jacobs, 26, of New Manchester, W.Va., was sentenced to four years’ probation after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated drug possession.

–Aaron M. Pierson, 29, Academy Street, Salineville, was sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated drug possession and one count of cocaine possession.

His sentence is to be served consecutively with the two-year sentence Pierson received for burglary, which occurred after he was indicted as part of Operation Big Oak. Pierson broke into the Salineville home of Sandra Lewis on April 23, 2018, and stole her earrings. He received credit for 225 days spent in the county jail awaiting disposition of the case.

Another Operation Big Oak indictee in court this week — Sherman A. Pritt Jr., 39, Y & O Road, East Liverpool — pleaded guilty as charged to two counts of aggravated drug possession involving fentanyl and heroin. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4. A charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity was dropped as part of the plea deal with the Ohio Attorney’s Office, which is serving as special prosecutor in the Operation Big Oak cases.

Between 2014 and 2017, Cleveland drug traffickers shipped an estimated 1.4 million doses of potentially lethal opioids to the county. According to a cleveland.com story, a Cleveland street gang known as Down the Way found the county to be a “fertile ground for peddling drugs smuggled in from Mexico,” with the leaders organizing shipments and even helping arrange street-level deals.

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