Drug ring investigation nets 4

Four suspected high-profile drug dealers are being held in lieu of $1 million or more bond at the Bartholomew County Jail, police said.

The arrests, which took place Friday throughout the Columbus area, were the result of a lengthy investigation into the sale of cocaine and methamphetamine, police said.

Those arrested by members of the Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team are:

Carlos M. Martinez, 30, 2683 Joseph Cox Court, Columbus, one count of dealing in cocaine, two counts of dealing in methamphetamine (Class A felonies), held in lieu of $1.5 million bond.

Jose Rodrigo Dominguez-Cruz, 30, 3126 Alan Drive, Edinburgh, two counts of dealing in methamphetamine (Class A felonies), held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Albin E. Asencio-Aguirre, 29, 3841 Longshore Drive, two counts of dealing in cocaine (Class A felonies), held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Erlin Lucero-Asencio, 23, 6902 Clark Blvd., two counts of dealing in methamphetamine (Class A felonies), held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Under Indiana law, each Class A felony is punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine.

Bond for all four men was determined at the amount of $500,000 for each Class A felony, Columbus Police Department spokesman Sgt. Matt Harris said.

“Any time you have arrests of this magnitude, you’re dealing with high-profile drug dealers,” Harris said. “But these arrests really highlight what the task force has been doing since its inception (in January). We’re hopeful the total number of arrests this year will make a dent in the amount of illegal drugs entering our community.”

Lucero-Asencio and Asencio-Aguirre, both citizens of Guatemala, were booked into the Bartholomew County Jail during the noon hour Friday, according to jail records.

Lucero-Asencio is accused of selling an ounce of methamphetamine to a confidential informant in the early summer of 2013 in exchange for $1,800, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

A few weeks later, a similar purchase of the same illegal stimulant took place involving two ounces for $3,500, the affidavit stated.

The two cocaine purchases involving Asencio-Aguirre took place in the late spring of 2013, court documents state. In both cases, a half-ounce of cocaine was provided in exchange for $600, a probable-cause affidavit states.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, Martinez became the third of the four suspects to be taken into custody.

He’s accused of selling almost an ounce of cocaine to an informant for $1,000 in the early spring of 2013, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Martinez made two separate sales of a half ounce of methamphetamine for $1,000 the following month, police said.

Dominguez-Cruz, who was picked up on an arrest warrant Friday night, was the final suspect taken into custody.

He’s accused of twice selling methamphetamine for an informant in early 2014, court records state. In the first instance, he’s accused of selling a quarter ounce of the illegal stimulant for about $500. About half that amount was sold during the second purchase, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Booking reports show both Dominguez-Cruz and Martinez are citizens of Mexico.

Since all four suspects are foreign citizens, the U.S. Department of Immigration has requested that all four be kept in custody to allow them to investigate each man’s legal status in the United States, assistant jail commander Capt. Kim Martoccia said.

In most of the cases, investigators were able to obtain audio and video recordings of the various drug transactions, according to probable-cause affidavits.

Since most of the drug buys took place in busy parking lots, video from private surveillance cameras will also be used as evidence, court records state.

Only Dominguez-Cruz among the four is accused of selling drugs within his own home. The other three suspects chose public places, occasionally making the buyer travel to two or more locations in an effort to avoid surveillance, the affidavits state.

The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team is a combined unit of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, the Columbus Police Department and the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s office.

Also assisting in the investigation were the Indiana State Police and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a press release.

The investigation is not over, Harris said, adding there may be more arrests made in the future.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.