Richards pleads guilty in drug case

MARIETTA – A Vincent man accused of being one of the most active heroin dealers in the Mid-Ohio Valley pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to a second-degree felony count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Michael V. Richards, 36, of 1365 McGill Road has been arrested on heroin-related charges in Washington County four times this year and has been selling heroin since at least October 2012, said Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider.

“Between October 2012 and May of this year, Mr. Richards, acting with several confederates…actively distributed heroin, essentially picking it up in Columbus and distributing here, and in Parkersburg,” he said.

Schneider and agents with the Major Crimes Task Force have referred to Richards as being the ringleader of a large group of players.

At least 10 other individuals were arrested in conjuncture with Richards’ various arrests. Most were charged with a variety of heroin-related crimes.

Richards was first arrested in January during the execution of a search warrant at a garage at 1110 Mood Ridge Road, Vincent, where he was then living. Five other people, some in the process of using heroin, were arrested and 5.04 grams of heroin, approximately 50 unit doses, were seized.

Richards was next arrested about two weeks later after information revealed that he and others had been selling heroin from a Marietta motel room, officials said.

Richards was arrested April 14 and May 8 for alleged drug possession and drug trafficking, respectively.

He posted bond and was not able to be located immediately after his July indictment on nine felony charges. He was arrested Oct. 4 on the indicted charges and has been incarcerated since then.

In exchange for Richards’ guilty plea on the second-degree felony charge, eight lesser charges were dismissed – three fourth-degree felony counts of drug trafficking, three fifth-degree felony counts of drug trafficking and two fifth-degree felony counts of drug possession.

The prosecution agreed to recommend three years in prison. Richards faces a maximum eight years on the charge.

Richards agreed to forfeit rights to cash and several items seized during his arrests though he questioned the legality of forfeiting a four-wheeler.

“There’s a thing on there about a four-wheeler that wasn’t mine. That was the neighbor’s and they took it back….I can’t forfeit something that isn’t mine,” he said.

However, Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth assured Richards that he was only giving up his own interest in any of the items.

Richards will forfeit $1,640 found during the May arrest, a metal lockbox and its contents, a 26-inch Emerson television still in the box, scales found in his home and motel room, and a silver Dodge Dakota pickup truck.

Richards has served a prison sentence in West Virginia for a 1997 aggravated robbery charge and a 1998 malicious wounding charge.

He is scheduled to be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 30.