by Doug Brown
Seven men were indicted in Cleveland's federal court last week for a cocaine distribution scheme that operated around the city, wrapping up an investigation that began nearly three and a half years ago.
Gilbert Mendez, Alexander Febres, Israel Cortes, Joseph Velez, Erick Mendez, Paris Valles and Ivan Salcedo Torres went down, following a Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force investigation, where local police and the FBI used five confidential informants, phone taps, GPS tracking devices and surveillance to document the operation.
According to phone tap affidavits filed more than a year ago, the investigation began in the summer of 2011 when a confidential informant detailed to police that his associate, Alex Febres, was receiving, packaging, and distributing "kilogram quantities of cocaine" at the Club Sin nightclub on West 6th St. in downtown Cleveland (the club has since changed names to Martini 6). The nightclub was owned by a man named Gilbert Mendez as well as, according to the informant, a Cleveland police officer named Juan Torres, known as "Tito" (we couldn't find a record of a Juan Torres being a CDP officer, and the Cleveland police detective who wrote the affidavit noted "It is unclear at this point of the investigation whether Torres is involved with this establishment." We have reached out to the city to check if Torres is or was a police officer). Investigators conducted a series of controlled cocaine buys In the "VIP" room of the club.
The affidavit says Febres and Mendez have cocaine connections in Chicago, Ill., and in Florida, and will travel there "in various vehicles to pick up cocaine."
Mendez would also regularly distribute cocaine at a Mr. Chassis Auto Body — a car repair shop on West 63rd St. owned by his friend, Israel Cortes — and at drug houses around Cleveland. The group processed or sold out of the body shop, and houses on the 3400 block of West 54th St., the 13000 block of Emery Rd., and 5000 block of Finn Ave. among other places.
Although the investigation began in the summer of 2011, most of the deals the task force documented happened in the second half of 2013. Mendez was taken into custody in Dec. 2013, after the task force believed he found the tracking device on his Trail Blazer. Documents say that Mendez admitted to processing "kilogram quantities of cocaine," and identified some of his other associates, and described some of his operation, leading to search warrants being executed later that month and the detainment of some colleagues and other suppliers.
All seven men were officially indicted on Feb. 11. of this year. Read the full indictment here: