Northeast Ohio drug trafficking ring leader sentenced to 40 years behind bars


Fentanyl (File photo)

CLEVELAND-A convicted drug trafficking ring leader has been sentenced to 40 years behind bars.

Joseph P. Gray, Jr. learned his punishment Thursday for leading a wide-ranging conspiracy to distribute heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, and other drugs, as well as firearms offenses.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Gray was responsible for approximately 1.5 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl mixtures and almost a kilogram of crack.

According to court records and the evidence presented at the sentencing hearing,  Gray led a drug trafficking organization that had customers on the east side of Cleveland,  Euclid and Lake County.

Investigators say Gray owned a phone to complete the drug transactions but gave access to other dealers so their organization could run all hours.

He was recorded telling a customer,  “my phone [is] twenty-four hours,” meaning that customers could call the phone 24 hours per day.

Authorities say hundreds of customers used the phone line daily and when Gray was arrested and police seized the phone, he made sure the line remained active.

Investigators said Gray had a system of using what he called “testers”—experienced heroin users who would try samples of a new batch before he bought it,
and give him a rating on a scale from one to ten.

Authorities said  Gray purposely purchased a heroin product that was strong enough to kill users.

In November of 2018, evidence shows he called a co-conspirator and reported that he had a good supply—that he had “fire on deck”—as demonstrated by the fact that it had killed one of his customers. He described it as “casket” quality, and they discussed how to get more of that product.

During the sentencing hearing, it was revealed Gray supplied heroin to a 23-year-old Willowick man who had relapsed from a heroin addiction.

The man received a fatal dose of fentanyl and other drugs by calling the customer phone on June 7, 2018. The next day,  his family learned he had died of a fentanyl overdose.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said: “This defendant dealt death for-profit and celebrated the overdose of people suffering from addiction.” “Every day of this four-decade sentence was well earned by Joseph Gray and this term of imprisonment sends a powerful message to anyone selling heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine: these Ohio neighborhoods belong to us, not you.”


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