May 21, 2010

Calhoun drug ring takedown snares locals

Federal RICO charges also filed

Mark Millican
Dalton Daily Citizen

DALTON — A Chatsworth woman and three Resaca residents have been charged as part of a drug ring bust in Gordon County that authorities say includes links to a Mexican drug cartel. Charges under the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) — a statute initially used against organized crime that allows law enforcement agencies to go after criminal enterprises — have also been filed. Their cases may go before a Gordon County grand jury in early June.

The Major Crimes Unit of the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office culminated the nine-month investigation with 19 arrests in mid-April with more expected, according to a press release.

An unusual twist in the case was that while the suspects were being watched by law enforcement, they were conducting counter-surveillance on the sheriff’s office located in Resaca and had obtained detectives’ and deputies’ time schedules, the sheriff’s office said. The suspects also attempted to learn the identity of informants and what investigative techniques deputies were using.

Charged with violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (VGCSA) and RICO were Linda Diane Poole, 50, of 1010 Brackett Ridge Road in Chatsworth, and Jennifer Elaine Davis, 27, of 1434 Resaca-LaFayette Highway of Resaca. Robert Joseph Davis, 28, of 1404 Resaca-LaFayette Highway, and Justin Robert Hunter, 22, of 1388 U.S. Highway 41, both of Resaca, were charged with VGCSA and conspiracy RICO.

Hunter and Poole remain in the Gordon County Jail, and Jennifer Davis and Robert Davis have bonded out, a jail spokeswoman said.

All of the other defendants are from Gordon County.

Gordon County Chief Deputy Robert Paris said whether the arrest was RICO or conspiracy of RICO was “at the prosecutor’s discretion (and) would go down with what the evidence would show.”

Authorities allege that participants in the organization received stolen property such as laptop computers and firearms and traded them for methamphetamine. Investigators believe several defendants have ties to a Mexican drug cartel, which was funneling the stolen goods south of the border.

Asked how the investigation began, Paris replied, “It was good police work. Our detectives have been out beating the bushes. Our new sheriff, Mitch Ralston, wanted to concentrate on (drug) organizations, not the individual users that were clogging the court system.”

Paris was asked how widespread the organization appeared to be.

“I don’t want to speak for other jurisdictions, but I think it’s all across northwest Georgia,” he said. “It has more of an impact when you take down groups rather than individuals. It was complicated police work, with informants and undercover covert operations, hours and hours of it. We also spent a lot of long hours on surveillance.

“The female defendant that was the ringleader had never had anymore than a speeding ticket,” Paris said. “She was very much under the radar.”

District Attorney Joe Campbell said the next step would be indictments.

“We’re trying to get this together for the grand jury in June, but I don’t know if we’ve got all the crime labs (evidence) back,” he said. “If not in June, it will be the second week in September (for the next grand jury).”

Campbell said it was “not good to speculate” about possible sentences for the defendants, but he said circuit judges came down hard on drug sellers who were found guilty.

“It would depend on the facts of the case, but with our judges (in the Cherokee Judicial Circuit that includes Gordon and Bartow counties) some period of incarceration would occur,” he said. “Circumstances of the case, such as the defendant’s role, whether they were involved in sales, and criminal record will figure in. We feel that with our community standards incarceration is appropriate. It’s prison time for a (drug) sales case in our circuit.”