LORAIN, Ohio - A known drug trafficker awaiting sentencing on drug charges was arrested this week by Lorain police on similar charges. Officers are blaming the court system for repeatedly releasing him back onto the street to sell drugs.
On Tuesday, police arrested Manuel "Ock" Latorre on multiple active warrants for various drug charges, including possession and trafficking in fentanyl.
According to Lorain police Lt. Ed Super, on Sept. 6, Latorre pleaded guilty to and was convicted of participation in a criminal gang, felonious assault, weapons under disability, trafficking in drugs and trafficking in heroin.
Super said the charges filed against Latorre were from four separate arrests. Each time Latorre was arrested and charged, he was later released on bond. Eventually, the cases were combined and Latorre was convicted on multiple charges.
When Latorre was arrested by authorities this week, he was awaiting sentencing for the Sept. 6 conviction.
Super said even after his conviction, Latorre was "permitted to be free on bond to continue in his pattern of criminal activity."
According to court records, Latorre has drug trafficking and weapons charges dating back to 2009.
"In a time when society is asking what can be done to stem the flow of opioids that are killing our family members, it appears that the call for help fall (sic) on deaf ears with the judges handling Latorre's cases," Super said in a news release.
Three of Latorre's most recent court cases were presided over by Judge Mark Betleski, his most recent conviction on Sept. 6.
"Judge Mark Betleski has continued to allow Lattore to prey on the citizens of Lorain County, selling fentanyl and heroin while waiting to be sentenced," Super said.
Police officials said they encourage Judge Betleski to give Latorre the maximum sentence on his pending cases.
"The Lorain Police Department and all Lorain County law enforcement agencies work hard to keep Latorre off our streets. Now its time for the Lorain County Judges to do their part," Super said.
Lorain councilwoman Mary Springowski said it's not just Lorain County judges who may play a role in not keep potentially dangerous drug convicts behind bars.
"The prosecutors at the county level, what is going on, why are they not hitting harder, and putting in more charges that are actually going to stick," said Springowski. "As far as I'm concerned, these repeated drug dealers are no different than a murderer, holding a loaded gun to somebody's head and pulling the trigger."
News 5 reached out to Betleski's office but was told the judge had no comment due to Latorre's pending sentencing on Oct. 16.