Ronald Steven Hise, Randall Allen Ferguson and Barry Lamar Franklin, all of Chickamauga, were arrested for their alleged involvement in a “significant size marijuana distribution ring,” according to Herbert “Buzz” Franklin, district attorney with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.
The three men were among six people indicted by a Walker County grand jury on Monday, May 7, on federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges. Arrest warrants are outstanding on the remaining three: Warren Everette Smith, Barbara Sue Smith, and Seth Elliott Smith, all of Lookout Mountain, Ga.
Authorities are in communication with the attorney for the Smiths, but they had yet to turn themselves in to authorities as of Thursday afternoon.
The on-going investigation also involves 15 more individuals for numerous counts of attempting to purchase marijuana and illegal use of a communication facility. Those arrests included Mark Kevin Hise of Chickamauga, David Lee Nicholson of Trion, Herbert Kendall Groce, Daniel Wayne Frashier of LaFayette, Paula Rhynae Gilliland of LaFayette, Howell Cross Scott of Rock Spring, Devin Wayne Riddle of Chickamauga, Festus Lane Ashworth of LaFayette, Daniel Travis Digges LaFayette, Misty Lynette Durham of LaFayette, Ashley Renee Puryear of Rossville, Danielle Nicole Puryear of Chickamauga and Lisa Renee Puryear of Chickamauga.
The amount of marijuana purchased ranged from small amount for personal use to several ounces that were sold by local dealers, according to Pat Doyle, commander of the Lookout Mountain Drug Force.
The drug trafficking operation, which was headquartered on Lookout Mountain, had been in operation for a significant period of time, according to Franklin.
The investigation by local authorities spanned a few months of marijuana arrests and monitoring communications devices used to make drug transactions, according to Franklin.
In early March a total of $1.1 million in assets was seized from Warren Everette Smith, Barbara Sue Smith, Seth Elliott Smith, Ronald Steven Hise and William Kirk Sisson. Numerous vehicles and three parcels of land totaling 43 acres belonging to the Smiths were among the property confiscated in March.
The Lookout Mountain location served as a local distribution point where dealers received marijuana, according to Franklin.
No marijuana was found during the raid in March, according to Doyle.
Further arrests are pending as the investigation focuses on other locations identified in the complex network of distributors.
The on-going investigation was a joint effort with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Other agencies that assisted in the operation include Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office, Dade County Sheriff’s Office, LaFayette Police Department, Rossville Police Department, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Corrections and the Governor’s Counterdrug Task Force.