Accused drug dealer sent to prison

Arrested four times in as many months on heroin-related charges, a Vincent man was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The maximum possible sentence was eight years.

Michael V. Richards, 36, of 1110 Moody Ridge Road, pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony charge Nov. 19. In turn, eight other felony drug charges against him were dropped. They included three fourth-degree felony counts of trafficking in drugs, three fifth-degree felony counts of trafficking in drugs and two fifth-degree felony counts of possession of drugs.

Richards and several others were arrested Jan. 29, 2013, at Richards’ home, where heroin and multiple paraphernalia items were found. Richards and four others were arrested two weeks later for selling heroin out of an area hotel room. He was next arrested April 14 for possession of drugs on Greene Street in Marietta.

Finally, he and two others were arrested after a May 8 traffic stop and each charged with various counts of selling heroin to undercover informants.

Wire recordings of the confidential informants were part of discovery, and Richards’ attorney Jack Blakeslee made a point of returning the recordings to Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider during the sentencing.

“I have some wires and interviews with snitches you had said you wanted back,” Blakeslee said, pulling the discs from his folder and handing them to Schneider.

The ongoing investigation against Richards lasted from October 2012 through his May arrest. Schneider has previously called Richards the ringleader of the local heroin trade. After his January arrest, Lt. Josh Staats with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Richards had been traveling to Columbus thrice monthly, buying between 50 and 90 unit doses of heroin each time.

At least 10 separate individuals with Richards during the four arrests were also arrested on drug charges.

No restitution was ordered, but Washington County Common Pleas Judge Randall Burnworth ordered that Richards forfeit several items seized during his various arrests.

Richards forfeited his interest in a Dodge truck, a Yamaha four wheeler, a 26-inch Emerson television, $2,404 cash, and a lock box taken from the hotel room where he had been staying.

Additionally, Burnworth said he would consider judicial release after Richards had served six months in prison. Richards would have to meet certain criteria to be considered, he added.

“Typically part of that is institutional behavior,” Burnworth said. “You have to have good behavior during your time in prison in order for the court to consider judicial release.”

Richards has credit for 123 days served.

He declined to comment during the hearing.