WHEELING - Police arrested 24 people Wednesday and are still searching for five more following what U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II called one of the largest drug investigations ever conducted in the Ohio Valley.
A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted those 29 people, almost all of whom are Ohio County residents, on charges of heroin, cocaine and prescription pill distribution.
Of those arrested, Richard Baron has been charged with 42 counts of drug-related felonies. Baron, 50, of Triadelphia and 24 others are accused of conspiring to distribute heroin, along with tens of thousands of prescription pills, from December through May. Federal agents seized a Cadillac CTS from Baron and are seeking a money judgment of $250,000.
Baron and his co-defendants are alleged to have obtained the pills from Columbus, Detroit and Baltimore.
Kymberly Mull, 43, of Wheeling was charged with 25 counts alleging she and others conspired to distribute heroin, cocaine and prescription pills. Authorities seized a Chevrolet Corvette, a Hummer H2 and a Dodge Ram from Mull and are seeking a money judgment against her of at least $100,000.
Most of the heroin Mull and her co-defendants are accused of distributing came from Pennsylvania, while the pills came from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
Ihlenfeld said the investigation began in September and included extensive surveillance, controlled purchases of narcotics from the defendants, execution of search warrants and the seizure of narcotics and cash. Wednesday's operation involved 40 local, state and federal officers making arrests in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said.
"These indictments and arrests make our community a safer place to live," Ihlenfeld said. "A significant drug trafficking organization has been dismantled, and a number of career criminals have been taken off the streets."
In addition to Baron and Mull, the following people were arrested Wednesday: Brian Barber, 23, of Wheeling; James Barcus, 36, of Wheeling; Craig Booker, 48, of Moundsville; Rodney Carter, 49, of Wheeling; Felicia Cross, 43, of Martins Ferry; Edward Davis, 50, of Wheeling; Richard Fischer, 37, of Wheeling; Gary Hack, 39, of Wheeling; Jenny Kota, 20, of Wheeling; Thomas Kunik, 59, of Wheeling; Richard Lang Jr., 44, of Wheeling; Kevin Mills, 31, of Wheeling; Benjamin Primus II, 23, of Bellaire; Chelsea Radcliffe, 22, of Triadelphia; Jarrett Robinson, 30, of Bridgeport; Reuben Rouse, 34, of Wheeling; Robin Rusk, 35, of Wheeling; Letitia Tambi, 31, of Wheeling; Ashlie Taylor, 27, of Wheeling; Samneisha Walker, 24, of Wheeling; Jonathan Wildey, 29, of Wheeling; and Duane Williams, 45, of Imperial, Pa.
The following suspects are still being sought: Teo Marcero Coleman, 31, of Cleveland; Deandre Estelle, 42, of Wheeling; Elliot Fitzsimmons, 22, of Wheeling; Robert Peterson, 34, of Wheeling; and Douglas Saunders, 52, of Columbus.
Ihlenfeld said as of Wednesday afternoon, many of those arrested had appeared before a federal magistrate judge and some had already retained attorneys. Because of the large number of defendants in the case, Ihlenfeld added, federal public defenders may need to be called to Wheeling from cities around the state to provide defense counsel.