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Crime News

Ohio Cops Bust 'Haunted Farm' Meth Ring, Arrest Ten

The five month investigation, dubbed “Operation Crystal Clear,” culminated in raids near Columbus that netted three pounds of methamphetamine and ten arrests.

By Noah Hurowitz

Police in Ohio busted a meth ring this week that was operating out of a property known to locals as the “Haunted Farm” for its annual Halloween festivities, prosecutors said.

The five month investigation into the drug runners, dubbed “Operation Crystal Clear,” culminated in raids across several counties southeast of Columbus, OH, that netted three pounds of methamphetamine and ten arrests, with the suspects facing a total of 60 felony charges, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement.

Police initially began investigating two of the main alleged suppliers of the operation, Timothy E. Hicks, 52, of Pleasantville, OH, and Michael E. Hedges, 39, of Lancaster, OH, in February after catching on that the pair were distributing the drugs in Fairfield and Licking Counties, according to DeWine.

During the course of the investigation, police and prosecutors say they caught on that another man, Rashad Martin, 31, of Reynoldsburg, OH, was allegedly supplying meth in bulk to Hicks and Hedges, who in turn are suspected of supplying at least seven street-level dealers in the area. The alleged dealers were also arrested in the sweep, prosecutors said.

The “Haunted Farm” gang is believed to be one of the biggest distributors of meth in the area, prosecutors said.

In a series of raids on Monday, police seized three pounds of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of about $78,000, and also nabbed nine firearms, $30,000 in cash, four vehicles, and stolen stump grinder that police estimated was valued at nearly $40,000.

One of the raids took place at the “Haunted Farm,” in Pleasantville, home to an annual Halloween celebration and also where Hicks lived, prosecutors said. In a Facebook post, a representative of the farm said they had nothing to do with Hicks’ alleged drug dealing, and pledged to hold festivities as usual in the fall.

The other suspects rounded up in the operation were Jessica L. Ballard, 28, of Lancaster; Mark E. Bowers, 62, of Groveport, OH; Charles C. Emrick Jr., 37, of Newark, OH; Anthony A. Ficheria, 43, of Hebron, OH; and Reba L. Hyme, 23, William B. Smith, 33, and Holly J. Watkins, 37, all of Lancaster, prosecutors said.

Meth has seen a resurgence in the area in the past year, DeWine said. So far in 2018, 6,700 drug samples submitted to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have tested positive for methamphetamine, which has already well outpaced the 5,328 samples testing positive for meth in all of 2017, a spokeswoman for DeWine told Oxygen.com.

DeWine said in a statement that the drugs were originally manufactured in Mexico and transported for distribution by drug cartels.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, and the lead investigator on the operation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The meth bust came on the same day that police in nearby Columbus, OH, arrested four men suspected of selling heroin and fentanyl, with authorities seizing 10 kilograms of fentanyl — enough to kill half the state’s population, police said — one kilo of meth, and 10 ounces of heroin, according to ABC 6 Columbus.

[Photo: Ohio Attorney General's Office]