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Ohio-West Virginia drug ring broken, several area residents in custody

Ferry chief says probe with help from DEA began a year ago

MARTINS FERRY — The Martins Ferry Police Department recently launched a drug investigation that led to the arrests of several people in Ohio and West Virginia.

After realizing the extent of the case, the department called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for help, which led to the dismantling of a drug ring.

The investigation resulted in the following local people being arrested on federal drug-related charges: Dathan Davis, 24, of Bridgeport; Michael Purcell, 30, and Kiana Wallace, 26, both of Bellaire; and Ryan Whitlatch, 34, of Powhatan.

Wheeling residents who were arrested included Joseph Howell, 27; Nathan Parker, 39; Sutura Bertram, 34; and Khalil Martin, 24. Benwood resident Andrew Myers, 42, also was arrested.

Four Cleveland residents were arrested as well: Lenny Sims Jr., 21; Eric Menefee, 44; Demarise Robinson, 38; and Michael Dugger, 29, according to information provided by Martins Ferry police Chief John McFarland.

Dugger allegedly was the leader of the ring. He allegedly was supplying a variety of drugs including prescriptions, cocaine, heroin and meth.

McFarland on Wednesday said the investigation began about a year ago.

“It all started here in Martins Ferry. Our officers in town gathered intelligence and evidence and knew the drugs were coming from the Cleveland area. We reached out to the DEA and it all developed from there,” he said.

He noted his officers were deputized as DEA agents so they could cross jurisdictions lawfully for the investigation.

“This was a really big project. Five or six officers from my department not only worked their regular eight-hour shifts, but spent anywhere from four to eight hours extra to help investigate drug crimes with the DEA office,” he said.

McFarland said while the majority of the hands on work was done by Martins Ferry and DEA agents, officers from departments across the Ohio Valley lent a hand.

“We get calls every day from people seeing drug deals in their neighborhoods. I wanted to go out with a bat and knock down their doors and arrest them, but I can’t. You have to gather evidence and get search warrants. We work hard at that. This is a perfect example. … This is one of the big ones and hopefully they will all get serious jail times and we won’t have to deal with them anymore,” McFarland said.

“Sometimes I never thought there would be an end to it. I’m pleased with the outcomes of the arrests. This wasn’t your average street dealers. This was big time with a lot of heroine, cocaine, meth and prescription medications being dealt with,” he added. “Everyone pitched in … this is how we get stuff done.”

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