Alleged 'mastermind' of Lima fentanyl ring sentenced

Mar. 22—LIMA — Travon Thomas, a Lima man convicted by an Allen County jury last month of running what prosecutors said was a large-scale narcotics distribution network, was sentenced Friday to a minimum of 45 years in prison.

Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser sentenced Thomas on 10 felony counts that included engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated funding of drug trafficking, three counts of trafficking in a fentanyl-related compound, two counts of trafficking in cocaine, and single counts of possession of a fentanyl-related compound and trafficking in heroin.

Specifications designating Thomas, 37, as a major drug offender factored into the sentence.

Jurors heard trial testimony from a confidential informant used by law enforcement who detailed multiple drug transactions involving Thomas. A female testified she had been working with Thomas "running drugs" since 2021 and had been paid by the defendant to travel to Columbus to repair a pill press and bring processed fentanyl pills back to Lima.

Kohlrieser said that when crafting a sentence for Thomas she looked at the defendant's virtually non-stop series of criminal convictions — starting at age 9 and continuing throughout his adult life — and the seriousness of his crimes in the immediate case.

"Most of these charges are fentanyl-related ... a proven killer. He (Thomas) facilitated bringing poison into this community," the judge said. "Thankfully this case does not involve any deaths."

Assistant Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Thines, who called Thomas the "mastermind behind a fentanyl pill-pressing operation (who) flooded this community with poison," asked Kohlrieser to impose a decades-long prison sentenced.

Steve Chamberlain of the Allen County Public Defenders Office urged the judge to use common sense in her sentence.

"With nine counts, this defendant could be looking at more than 100 years in prison," the defense attorney said. "The job of the court is to inject some common sense into the sentence. There is no rational human reason we should do defacto life (prison) sentences in a case like this. The drug problem in Lima goes a lot higher than Travon Thomas. He is not the worst of the worst; he is not even the worst we have in Lima," Chamberlain said.

Thomas said he plans to appeal his conviction and sentence.