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CLEVELAND, Ohio - An East Side drug dealer who previously owned a strip club in downtown Cleveland was sentenced Wednesday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison.

Roland Smith, 43, was one of four people that an FBI-led task force observed regularly hanging out at two Hilgert Drive duplexes in April.

Agents searched the homes and found heroin, more than an ounce of fentanyl, more than five ounces of cocaine, a gram of heroin and tools used to press, store and transport drugs. They also found a semiautomatic pistol.

Smith pleaded guilty in August to a drug-conspiracy charge. U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan handed down the sentence.

On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pinjuh did not express optimism that Smith would live a clean life upon his release from prison. Pinjuh said Smith refused to cooperate with authorities, even when he was offered a lower prison sentence.

When he gets out, he will go back to drug dealing because "that's all he knows, " Pinjuh said.

Jeffrey Saffold, Smith's attorney, said that was presumptuous and that he was optimistic that Smith would live a law-abiding life upon release.

Saffold said Smith fell back into the life of a drug dealer after his father died in 2014.

"When he lost his father, he lost everything, " Saffold said.

Smith, who was convicted in a previous federal drug case, had been on the government's radar for some time. The U.S. Attorney's Office sent him a letter in February that said authorities were monitoring his location through his cellphone.

Smith was the owner of the now-defunct Tops & Bottoms Gentlemen's Club on Bolivar Road near Progressive Field. The club closed in 2013 after police responded to several calls involving violence.

Smith was also investigated in 2013 because officials suspected he was laundering money through the strip club. Smith was never charged as a result of that investigation.

The U.S. Probation Office said Smith should be labeled a career offender, a designation that would have required Gaughan to sentence him to at least 15 years in federal prison. Such a designation is allowed when someone facing sentencing for a drug or violent crime charge has at least two prior similar convictions.

Smith was convicted of federal drug charges in 2002 and 2005. Gaughan decided against labeling Smith a career offender because both convictions arose from the same case and said they should not be counted separately.

Before sentencing Smith, Pinjuh said the judge should consider that Cuyahoga County could see more than 600 overdose deaths this year from drugs like the ones Smith was selling.

"Your honor, this stuff is like a plague. It's that bad, and that's what Mr. Smith had in his house, " Pinjuh said.



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