Two Columbus police officers on the department's drug cartel unit were arrested Tuesday on federal drug trafficking charges.
What's happening: Marco Merino, 44, and John Kotchkoski, 33, are accused of working together to sell cocaine and fentanyl over the course of several months in 2021.
- Unbeknownst to them, they dealt these drugs to undercover FBI agents and a confidential informant, court documents allege.
Why it matters: The latest troubling incident for the Columbus Division of Police (CPD) comes as new leadership is working to reform the department and rebuild public trust.
Details: Merino and Kotchkoski allegedly sold and helped transport 7.5 kilograms of fentanyl in the lengthy sting operation, according to criminal complaints filed in U.S. Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
- The two face up to life sentences in prison for the drug trafficking charges.
More allegations: Prosecutors say Merino promised the informant protection from law enforcement and Kotchkoski aided with transporting the drugs, occasionally with a CPD-issued undercover vehicle.
- Merino intended to gain Mexican citizenship for him and his family as part of a plan to use drug sale proceeds to buy real estate there and then continue laundering money, court documents claim.
- Merino is also charged with bribery for accepting $44,000 cash in exchange for helping facilitate the informant's fake cocaine deals.
The latest: Police Chief Elaine Bryant relieved the officers of duty pending the trial outcomes.
- "If proven, such actions would violate the oath our officers take, the standards we must hold ourselves to, and the trust of the public," Bryant said in a provided statement.
What they're saying: Mayor Andrew Ginther said the arrests undermine the efforts to rebuild community trust in policing.
- "We will hold these officers accountable, check the abuse of power and remain steadfast in our work to reform policing in Columbus," he said in a statement.
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