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Former Columbus narcotics officer pleads guilty to conspiring to distribute fentanyl

John Kotchkoski, along with fellow officer Marco Merino, was arrested in September 2021 by federal agents.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Columbus police narcotics officer pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of conspiring to distribute fentanyl. 

John Kotchkoski, 33, entered the guilty plea as part of an agreement that includes forfeiting cash, firearms, vehicles including a Cadillac Escalade and a Corvette and a $500,000 money judgment against him. 

According to court documents, the amount represents a conservative estimate of the proceeds he personally obtained by committing the crime.

Kotchkoski, along with fellow officer Marco Merino, was arrested in September 2021 by federal agents. Authorities say the two conspired to traffic fentanyl from June to September 2021.

The elaborate plot was uncovered through a combination of cell phone data, confidential sources, FBI agents and recorded conversations. The two officers were netted in an FBI sting during the transportation of what they thought were illegal drugs. 

A judge ordered Kotchkoski to remain in jail following his arrest after allegations surfaced that he threatened to have Merino's family killed if Merino ever talked about any of their illegal activity.

The prosecutor argued Kotchkoski's culpability is greater because he is a police officer and he knew the dangers and risks of fentanyl.  

Columbus police chief Elaine Bryant has called the allegations "beyond disturbing." Bryant filed departmental charges against the two in October. Merino submitted his letter of resignation around that same time and Bryant recommended Kotchkoski be terminated. 

Merino pleaded guilty in February of conspiring to distribute more than eight kilograms of fentanyl and accepting bribes to protect the transportation of cocaine.

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