‘Major player’ in heroin trade arrested

One of Washington County’s largest suspected dealers of heroin was among six people arrested during a Tuesday morning drug bust in Vincent.

Agents from the Major Crimes Task Force executed a search warrant just after midnight Tuesday at the home of Michael V. Richards, 35, of 1110 Moody Ridge Road, Vincent, said Lt. Josh Staats with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Officers believe Richards has been dealing drugs in the area for about two months.

“That’s what he told me and that is around the same time we started getting anonymous calls from concerned parties,” said Staats.

However, Richards is believed to be a major player in the local heroin scene because of how frequently he was making trips to Columbus to purchase drugs for resale in the Washington County area, officers said.

“Richards has been under surveillance for the past month. He told me he makes roughly three trips a month to Columbus and he is typically buying between five to nine grams at a time,” said Staats.

Each gram of heroin contains approximately 10 unit doses, he added.

The timing was right Tuesday to try to make an arrest, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

“We felt that something was about to happen because local addicts had been coming to Richards and not spending a lot of time there, which indicated they weren’t buying anything (and a new shipment might be coming),” he said.

Five task force agents and three deputies were ready with a search warrant when Richards returned from a suspected drug run, said Staats.

Richards’ residence is technically a three-stall detached garage, he said. The sparse living quarters contained a pool table, a mattress, a wood stove, a refrigerator and a kitchen table with some chairs around it, Staats said.

“Basically we were able to see everyone as soon as we walked in. They didn’t have a bedroom to hide in,” he added.

Agents observed Richards, seated at a table with Eric B. Siders, 24, of 6070 Sandhill Road, Marietta, and Chelsie M. Cochran, 19, of 121 Warner St., Marietta. On the table was a syringe and a spoon, both containing what is believed to be heroin, said Mincks.

“Richards told us that Siders and Chelsie Cochran were getting ready to shoot up,” said Staats.

On the floor near where Richards was seated were three bags of heroin, weighing a total of 5.04 grams, said Mincks. The heroin was the largest quantity the agency has seized in some time, he said.

It was enough to charge Richards with a third-degree felony count of possession of heroin, he added.

Cochran and Siders were each charged with a fifth-degree felony count of possession because they possessed smaller quantities, said Mincks.

Also arrested was Shawn J. Sims, 22, of 550011 Hudson Road, Reedsville, for tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

After being handcuffed and advised to sit still, Sims was observed attempting to conceal a syringe, said Mincks. Sims admitted the needle had fallen out of his pants and he was trying to hide it, he said.

While officers attempted to secure individuals inside the structure, Heather D. Thompson, 24, of 116 Harmar St., Marietta, continued to yell at the investigating officers, said Mincks. She was highly intoxicated and subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

While officers were still inside, Ali R. Martin, 23, of 101 Stonecrest Drive, Marietta, arrived at the residence, said Mincks. A syringe, syringe caps and cotton were found in Martin’s vehicle. She was subsequently arrested for possession of drug abuse instruments, a second-degree misdemeanor.

“It’s pretty common when a load comes back into the county that everybody just shows up to start buying it,” said Staats.

Two other people inside Richard’s residence were not arrested.

Agents seized a 26-inch television and an ATV that were believed to have been stolen and used to pay off drug debt, said Mincks. Additionally, agents seized the pickup truck Richards had been using to make drug runs, he said.

Richards could face additional charges including receiving stolen property and drug trafficking, said Mincks.

According to Marietta Municipal Court records, Richards has previous charges for obstructing justice, possession of drugs, breach of recognizance, and disorderly conduct.

Richards was charged in West Virginia with aggravated robbery in 1997 and malicious wounding in 1998, said Mincks. He served at least six years in the Mount Olive Correction Complex in West Virginia, he said.

Other individuals in the home could also face additional charges, said Mincks.

Richards is being held in the Washington County Jail on $15,000 bond.