Jurors learn about undercover drug buys as trial begins

LIMA — Jurors in the case of a Lima man charged with 10 felony crimes related to his alleged trafficking of fentanyl, cocaine and heroin got a crash course in undercover drug buys and the use of confidential informants in those purchases Monday in Allen County Common Pleas Court.

The lesson came courtesy of Aaron Montgomery, an investigator with the West Central Ohio Crime Task Force who coordinated three such drug buys that ultimately led to a criminal indictment against Travon Thomas.

Thomas, 36, is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree, in addition to first-degree felony charges of aggravated funding of drug trafficking; three counts of trafficking in a fentanyl-related compound; two counts of trafficking in cocaine; and two counts of trafficking in heroin.

Attached specifications include the forfeiture of weapons and money in a drug case and also call for a major drug offender sentence.

In his opening statement to jurors Assistant Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Carp said evidence to be presented during the trial will make clear the role Thomas played in the distribution of drugs in Lima.

“What you will not see,” Carp said, “is a defendant who is actively involved in these transactions. Instead, this defendant orchestrated, or ordered, these transactions.”

Following opening statements from attorneys, Montgomery provided the trial’s opening testimony Monday afternoon.

Carp told jurors that three separate controlled drug purchases, each using a confidential informant, were conducted in April of 2021. In each case Thomas is alleged to have made the necessary arrangement to deliver or distribute the drugs.

Montgomery testified the confidential informant used to purchase the drugs was given “case consideration” for a lesser possible sentence on charges he was facing. In addition the informant was paid “I believe it was $500,” Montgomery said.

Defense attorney Steve Chamberlain told jurors in his opening statements they would hear a great deal of information in the coming days. He asked them to view that information with a dose of skepticism.

“I believe the state’s case hinges on two, non-law enforcement witnesses,” both of whom have “something to gain and something to lose” through their testimony.

The trial will resume Tuesday morning in the chambers of Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser.