WESTERVILLE – A Columbus man was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for a fentanyl trafficking operation that went through the Westerville Red Roof Inn.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Lucio Manuel Munoz, 29, of Columbus, was sentenced to 188 months in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy involving more than 75 pounds of fentanyl.

Munoz and two others, Maximus Alberto Dominguez, 20, and Rene Bernal Gaytan, 23, were charged with federal drug crimes after around 30 kilograms of fentanyl was seized from his vehicle. Investigators said the drug operation was run out of the Red Roof Inn on South State Street in Westerville and a home on Chesford Road in Columbus.

According to the U.S. Attorney, law enforcement officials were conducting surveillance on both locations on Feb. 2, 2021, and subsequently stopped Dominguez for a traffic stop on Interstate 270 South. A narcotics K9 alerted to the presence of drugs and officers discovered approximately 978 grams of fentanyl in the BMW he was driving.

Munoz was caught after fleeing from the Chesford Road home and leading police on a car chase and a foot chase. The Jeep Munoz was driving contained around 30 kilograms of fentanyl.

Court records detail that agents also found approximately eight kilograms of fentanyl with Gaytan in a room at the Red Roof Inn. They also discovered a storage locker in Columbus where a duffel bag of vacuum-sealed bulk currency was located.

Munoz pleaded guilty in June 2021 to conspiring to possess and possessing with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid typically used to treat severe pain. It is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine. A very small amount of the drug can trigger a deadly overdose.

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