Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Fairfield County Prosecuting Attorney R. Kyle Witt, and members of the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit and Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force announced today the takedown of a major methamphetamine trafficking organization that is believed to have been among the largest suppliers of methamphetamine in Fairfield County.
Ten people are now facing a total of more than 60 felony charges as a result of "Operation Crystal Clear," a five-month, collaborative investigation into the large-scale sale of methamphetamine in Fairfield and Licking counties.
Authorities with the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit began investigating the methamphetamine trafficking ring in February after gathering evidence that Timothy E. Hicks, 52, of Pleasantville, and Michael E. Hedges, 39, of Lancaster, were allegedly distributing large amounts of methamphetamine in Fairfield County, Licking County, and nearby jurisdictions.
Investigators then worked with Attorney General DeWine's Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to trace the source of supply to the alleged ringleader of the group, Rashad L. Martin, 31, of Reynoldsburg. The investigation found that Martin allegedly sold bulk amounts of methamphetamine to Hicks and Hedges, who then allegedly worked with the other seven alleged co-conspirators to distribute the drugs on the streets.
Martin, Hicks, and Hedges are each facing numerous charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and trafficking in drugs.
Authorities believe the methamphetamine that was allegedly trafficked by this organization was manufactured by Mexican drug cartels and transported to Ohio. Throughout the state, the abuse of methamphetamine has significantly increased in recent years. More than 6,700 drug submissions have tested positive for methamphetamine at BCI's crime laboratories in 2018.
"Mexican drug cartels are not only pushing opioids into Ohio, but they are also flooding this state with cheap methamphetamine to get people hooked," said Attorney General DeWine. "Right now we are seeing more methamphetamine submitted to our BCI crime laboratories than any other drug. As my office works to fight the opioid epidemic, we are also dedicated to stopping those who are dealing meth and putting money into the hands of cartels."
“This investigation reflects our commitment to using every available tool, tactic, and resource to stem the tide of illegal drugs into Fairfield County,” said Prosecutor Witt. “It is a great example of state and local law enforcement working together to hold suppliers accountable.”
"This investigation should send a clear message to the citizens of Fairfield and Licking counties that law enforcement is working tirelessly to keep their communities safe and free of illegal drugs," said Commander Dennis Lowe of the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit. "Those who conspire to profit and exploit those suffering from substance abuse disorders should know that we know who they are, and we will use all available resources and investigative tools to bring them to justice."
Over the course of the investigation, authorities served search warrants in Lancaster, Pataskala, and at the "Haunted Farm," a Halloween attraction on Old Millersport Road in Pleasantville, where Hicks resides. The investigation led to the seizure of three pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $78,000. Investigators also confiscated nine firearms, approximately $30,000 in cash, four vehicles, and a stolen stump grinder valued at more than $38,000.
Other suspects facing drug charges as part of "Operation Crystal Clear" are:
- Jessica L. Ballard, 28, Lancaster
- Mark E. Bowers, 62, Groveport
- Charles C. Emrick Jr., 37, Newark
- Anthony A. Ficheria, 43, Hebron
- Reba L. Hyme, 23, Lancaster
- William B. Smith, 33, Lancaster
- Holly J. Watkins, 37, Lancaster
Attorney General DeWine's Special Prosecutions Section and the office of Licking County Prosecutor Bill Hayes are assisting with the prosecution of the case.
The following law enforcement agencies collaborated on the investigation: Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit, Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Circleville Police Department, Lancaster Police Department, Logan Police Department, Athens Police Department, Ohio University Police Department, Athens County Sheriff’s Office, and United States Drug Enforcement Administration Columbus District Office.
The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Licking County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Adult Probation, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and Pickaway County Box 65 assisted with the execution of the search warrants.