Braceville cop arrested in drug ring investigation
WARREN – A part-time Braceville police officer and corrections officer at the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office was arrested Friday on charges related to an ongoing heroin ring investigation by the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force.
Ryan Freeman, 30, of Front St. S.W., was arrested by TAG before agents executed a search warrant at his home. Freeman was charged with unauthorized use of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway computer system and obstruction of justice, both felonies.
A TAG spokesman said Freeman checked the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway as a sheriff’s employee and allowed two people who are known drug distributors from Detroit to watch as Freeman searched the system to see if police were looking at them as suspects. The spokesman said Freeman also used the system to search the records of two law enforcement officers.
During Friday’s search at Freeman’s home, TAG officers removed a computer, monitor, desktop printer and one boost mobile phone. Investigators also removed uniform items, a police radio, identification cards and keys belonging to Braceville Township and a Glock firearm belonging to the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.
The spokesman said the investigation began Jan. 15 when TAG officers executed two search warrants in the Warren area, one at 2042 Wallace St. and one at 119 Walnut Court. He said investigators had been conducting surveillance on the properties relative to the distribution of drugs when they began to follow a 1996 Oldsmobile from the Wallace address north into the city.
When the vehicle’s occupants, Frederick D. Johnson, 39, and Brandi L. Watson, 26, became suspicious, they began to drive at high rates of speed, committing numerous traffic violations. The suspects drove through the rear yard of a residence on Porter Street and task force investigators requested the assistance of the Warren Police Department to get the vehicle stopped.
After several minutes of erratic driving by the Oldsmobile, the vehicle stopped in a driveway on Belvedere Avenue, where the occupants bailed out and ran in different directions. Warren officers and task force officers pursued the suspects on foot, but did not apprehend the suspects immediately, the spokesman said.
Warren police Sgt. Sherrey McMahon and her K-9 Arras began a track of the suspects near Belvedere. In the rear yard of a residence on Hazelwood, a brown bag was recovered that contained heroin weighing approximately 419 grams, he said.
With the assistance of witnesses, investigators also recovered approximately 4 ounces of powder cocaine, located in two different locations in the front yard of residences on Chestnut Street. A Glock semi-automatic firearm and holster were recovered in the snow at an address on Hazelwood.
Investigators then sought a search warrant for the Wallace Street address. During a search of the residence, investigators recovered $1,250 cash, a .22-caliber and .38-caliber handgun, a Glock firearms box and .40-caliber ammunition, and miscellaneous paperwork.
Later that evening, investigators were provided information that Watson was hiding out at 587 Atlantic St. Warren officers and the task force went to the residence and discovered Watson and a friend hiding in the garage. Watson was arrested without incident and transported to the Trumbull County Justice Center.
On Wednesday, a review of the telephone calls from the jail discovered that Watson had contacted her friend about bonding her out of jail. Watson requested that the woman bring the $8,000 left at her house Jan. 15 to AAABB bonding to get her out of jail.
Task force agents discovered the funds had been provided to the bondsman, who refused to release them. On Thursday, the bonding company was issued a seizure order for the contraband. Witness statements indicated that the money was taken from the drug proceeds of Johnson by Watson.
The spokesman said Johnson turned himself into his parole officer in Liberty on Thursday and is in jail.