CIRCLEVILLE - The arrest of 72 suspects indicted Friday by the Pickaway County Grand Jury should effectively shut down a drug ring that was selling heroin like pizza in Circleville, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
About 50 of the 72 suspects were in custody as of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday after officers and investigators spent the morning rounding them up throughout Pickaway County and into Franklin County.
At a press conference held Wednesday at the Circleville Police station, DeWine said the suspect list consists mostly of addicts or consumers who are charged with possession of heroin or cocaine.
A total of 17, though, are facing charges of trafficking in heroin and cocaine, and 11 of those even steeper charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
DeWine said investigators are confident those 17 people comprise the entire upper and middle management of a trafficking ring from Columbus that will cease to exist once they are all in custody.
"The organization worked very much like a pizza delivery business," DeWine said. "They would bring the drugs in from Columbus and were setting up in several homes where customers could call and place their order. Then the middle management would go out and make the deliveries."
DeWine said the traffickers were pulling in about $40,000 per month in drug sales.
Sgt. Shawn Baer, acting chief of the Circleville Police Department, said there were probably about two dozen homes involved in the activity throughout the investigation over the past eight months, which included investigators from the Ohio Attorney General's Heroin Unit established in 2013, along with Circleville Police, the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
Wednesday's round-up of suspects also included members of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Columbus Police Department and Ohio State Highway Patrol, along with a number of other agencies.
"Without BCI and the Heroin Unit, it would have been absolutely impossible to get this done," Baer said.
Baer said the Heroin Unit provided additional and valuable resources the departments would not have on their own to investigate, identify suspects and ultimately charge them with the crimes.
Sheriff Robert Radcliff, Pickaway County Sheriff's Office, said Wednesday's press conference was a flashback to a similar event held several years ago when many of the same players gathered together to announce the round-up of multiple suspects in a prescription drug operation.
"I think people may have thought then that we had put our foot on the brake and we were done," Radcliff said.
Wednesday's arrests, he said, was proof they were clearly on the accelerator and actively dealing with the current wave of drug activity, which has steered away from prescription drugs in recent years and heavily into heroin.
"We will continue until we can eradicate this plague from our community," Radcliff said.
Mayor Don McIlroy commended all the officers and agencies involved and spoke about a misconception he often hears as drug arrests put Circleville and Pickaway County in the headlines. At a recent mayors' conference, he said, he was approached by several people who commented that Circleville must have a serious drug problem.
"I say we do have a drug problem," McIlroy said. "But we decided to do something about it."
Jayme Fountain, assistant Pickaway County Prosecutor, also spoke at Wednesday's press conference, discussing the importance of not just addressing the drug dealers but also the users who make the crime such a lucrative business.
"As long as there is a demand, there will always be a supply," Fountain said.
DeWine said there is no easy answer to dealing with such a powerful addiction, and no one believes the battle will end today. He said tha battle has three parts - law enforcement, treatment options and education and prevention - and today the law enforcement effort was a huge success.
"What you have here are leaders who say, 'We're not going to put up with this anymore, and we have done something about it,'" DeWine said. "These people thought they could come into Pickaway County and deal drugs. The message being sent today is, don't come to Pickaway County."
As of the time of the 1 p.m. press conference Wednesday, the following people have been arrested on indictment:
Charged with Trafficking in Heroin, Trafficking in Cocaine and Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity:
1. Michael Binkley II, 33, of Circleville
2. Jessica Dodge, 34, of Circleville
3. Dejon Dunning, 27, of Lancaster
4. Nicole Grambo, 35, of Circleville
5. David Caslin, 44, of Columbus
Charged with Trafficking in Heroin and Trafficking in Cocaine:
1. Rodney Evans, 46, of Circleville
2. Arnold Pennington Jr., 35, of Circleville
3. Lindsey Pyle, 20, of Circleville
Charged with Possession of Heroin and/or Possession of Cocaine:
1. Mary Barton, 22, of Circleville
2. Julia Boyer, 45, of Circleville
3. Terri Bryd, 24, of Circleville
4. Donald Cassady, 44, of Orient
5. Mallory Cordell, 20, of Circleville
6. Elyse Craig, 25, of Circleville
7. Joshua Cross, 33, of Circleville
8. Roger Derr, 40, of Circleville
9. Gwen Draise, 37, of Stoutsville
10. Sherri Evans, 45, of Circleville
11. Dustin Fausnaugh, 25, of Circleville
12. Daniel Ferry, 54, of Williamsport
13. Amy Frazier, 36, of Circleville
14. Harold David Hamilton, 60, of Clarksburg
15. Kenneth Hardman, 40, of Circleville
16. Rhonda Hardman, 42, of Circleville
17. John F. Hill, 49, of Circleville
18. Thomas B. Hunt, 47, of Circleville
19. Christina Jenkins, 34, of Circleville
20. Jason Johnston, 36, of Circleville
21. Tyler Johnson, 23, of Circleville
22. Travis Kellough, 24, of Circleville
23. Jason Lambert, 41, of Circleville
24. Nicole Leasure, 39, of Circleville
25. Bobby Lowry, 39, of Circleville
26. Cody McKibben, 24, of Circleville
27. Rusti Neff, 28, of Circleville
28. Tim Neff Jr., 35, of Circleville
29. Brian Parmer, 34, of Circleville
30. Michelle Parmer, 34, of Circleville
31. Jaime Pennington, 38, of Circleville
32. Carre Perkins, 49, of Laurelville
33. Jessica Quito, 31, of Circleville
34. Philip Reichelderfer, 32, of Circleville
35. Renee Rittenhouse, 32, of Circleville
36. Shannon Schwalbauch, 40, of Circleville
37. Laurie Smith, 38, of Circleville
38. Terra Smith, 38, of Circleville
39. Tamera Thornton, 55, of Circleville
40. Mary Walker, 50, of Circleville
41. James Williams, 60, of Circleville
42. Cassandra Young, 34, of Williamsport
Additional suspects will be reported as information becomes available.