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Drug arrests net #039;upper level dealers#039;

Two Columbus area men are behind bars, charged with trafficking in crack cocaine.

Local authorities said the 144 grams of crack cocaine is the largest finds they have encountered within a 24-hour period. It has a street value of $22,000.

Ironton Police detective, Capt. Chris Bowman, said the Lawrence County Drug Task Force received information two months ago that dealers from out of town were selling drugs in Lawrence County. The task force, operated through the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office, began surveillance of the two men and their activities, and obtained information about the vehicles they were using to travel through the area.

Keleci Hill, 26, of Pinkerton, was arrested Tuesday night in the vicinity of State Route 141 and U.S. 52 during a traffic stop. Bowman said a search of his 2001 Lincoln Navigator produced 86 grams of crack, a small quantity of marijuana, drug paraphernalia including a set of scales and a firearm.

Bowman said Hill has a lengthy criminal history and was on parole from earlier federal drug charges. Hill was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, having a weapon under a disability, possession of criminal tools, trafficking in marijuana and first-degree aggravated trafficking in schedule I and II drugs.

Hours later, his associate, Antwan M. Winbush, 22, of Columbus also known as Deneen Black, was spotted in a vehicle in the the vicinity of Third and Oak streets. Authorities began pursuit of the vehicle, and stopped it in the vicinity of Fourth and Heplar streets. Three people in the vehicle fled on foot. Winbush was apprehended in the 800 block of South Eighth Street.

Authorities said Winbush, who carried no personal identification, initially gave his name as Deneen Black. He was taken to the Lawrence County Jail and fingerprinted, and those prints were sent to the FBI Fingerprinting center in Clarksburg, W.Va., where federal authorities determined his real identity.

"The FBI fingerprinting center has been very helpful in providing criminal histories and providing positive ID of drug dealers," Lawrence County Drug Task Force investigator David Marcum said, noting that drug dealers often do not carry identification in an effort to conceal their identity if they are caught.

He was charged with first degree aggravated trafficking in schedule I and II drugs, resisting arrest and falsification of identity. Authorities discovered 35 grams of crack is his possession. Winbush is also wanted on drug-related charges in Portsmouth.

A third man apprehended with Winbush has yet to be charged.

Both Winbush and Hill are described as "upper level dealers". One of the men had in his possession a copy of the Ohio Revised Code sections pertaining to drug laws. Approximately $2,000 in cash was also confiscated in connection with the arrests.

"They are major distributors of crack," Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton said. "We have received numerous complaints about dealers from Columbus and Detroit dealing drugs in Lawrence County. We've (area law enforcement) all gotten phone complaints, and visits from people who complain in person about heavy traffic in their neighborhood and things they've seen. This information has been very helpful. It gives us valuable assistance."

Those who have information about suspected drug dealing may call the drug task force hot line at 533-5511.

Sexton said one ominous discovery that local authorities are making more often these days is that the drug dealers are well-armed.

"In the last year, we've started to see that more of the subjects are carrying weapons when they're arrested. We're finding that about 80 percent of them have prior arrests or are wanted on other charges."

Authorities said they expect to make more arrests in the case soon. Authorities said local residents who have allowed these drug dealers to stay at their houses may find themselves charged with complicity or conspiracy to sell drugs.

"When dealers come here from out of town, they don't just stand on the street corner with it, they have to have a place to set up and sell. And it's local people who provide it," Bowman said.

Winbush and Hill are expected to appear today in Ironton Municipal Court.