Undercover agents from local, state and federal agencies lined the walls Wednesday as Marion police chief Bill Collins announced the results of their work – the alleged "main supplier" of blue drop heroin was in custody.
"This investigation is unprecedented in the way that local, state and federal agencies were able to quickly assemble to bring an end to this deadly batch of heroin that was being peddled by this drug kingpin Eric Creagh," Collins said.
"I have never in my 30-year career seen an investigation go from start to finish in less than 14 days. We're just the people that get to stand up here and tell you how great our people are."
Eric Creagh, 32, of 296 Waterloo St., was arrested Wednesday on felony possession of heroin with intent to distribute and felony federal firearms charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Toledo is handling the case, though Marion County Prosecutor Brent Yager may bring additional charges.
"We'll work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to see what they want to take out of this and then I'm sure there'll be state charges too," Yager said. "If we can identify this person selling this heroin to somebody, we know it's them, and that person dies, we will charge them for a homicide."
Marion County court records show Creagh was convicted in 2008 of felonious assault with a firearms specification, a second-degree felony. He was released in 2013 after serving five years of a seven-year sentence.
City and county law enforcement, the MARMET and METRICH drug task forces, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration cooperated in the investigation that led to Creagh's arrest and will continue cooperating in the future.
To operate at the level police allege, Creagh had to work with other suppliers, both above and below him. "You don't deal that amount of dope and work alone," Collins said.
It began following another press conference at the police department when Mayor Scott Schertzer asked where state and federal authorities were in Marion's fight against heroin.
On Wednesday, he had his answer, and the results were sitting on the table next to him. Acting on intelligence they'd gathered, the law enforcement agencies seized bottles of dye, scales, two firearms, around $50,000, and a kilogram -- around 2.2 pounds -- of suspected blue drop heroin in simultaneous morning drug raids on three Marion houses.
"This was a home run for us today; we anticipated encountering quite a bit of heroin but had no clue what we'd stepped into until we got there," Collins said.
The two firearms were a .380 Ruger handgun and a Heritage single-action revolver. Marion Police Lt. Chris Adkins said federal prosecutors are requesting forfeiture of the cash seized, which would then be divided among the agencies involved.
"I think now we can finally say we've got that one hand that was tied behind our back 14 days ago, we're working with two hands now," Schertzer said. "When we've got partners like this working on illegal drugs in our community, we're going to make a significant impact."
Collins said they'd had "intelligence" on Creagh for a few months before the arrest but did not provide specifics on this or what led to the search warrants and arrests, other than that local police, BCI and the DEA had conducted controlled buys of heroin.
Timothy Plancon, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA's Columbus office, said the DEA supplied extra manpower through the assistance of case agents and will help with prosecution. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said BCI staff included members of the Narcotics, Special Investigation, Crime Scene and K9 units.
The raids were performed by the Marion Strategic Response Team at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at 296
Waterloo Ave., 546 Toledo Ave., and 258 1/2 Leader St.
James Easterday, 44, Levi Vanway, 25, and Jon C. Woods, 43, were arrested at the Leader Street location on possession of heroin and drug abuse instrument charges. Collins said the house was the site of "three or four" overdoses in the last seven to 10 days.
County auditor records show the other houses, on Waterloo Avenue and Toledo Avenue, belong to Creagh and were purchased last year.
Marion Police Chief Bill Collins arranges bags of cash, a pair of handguns and about a kilo of heroin on an evidence table during a press conference announcing the arrest of Eric Lee Creagh. Creagh was arrested in an early morning raid at three locations Wednesday by a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies investigating a surge of heroin related overdoses in Marion.
Collins and Plancon said that they believe blue drop heroin was Creagh's signature, though general fentanyl-laced heroin is prevalent throughout the state.
"I feel like we hit the head of the nail, getting this guy and the blue drop heroin," Collins said. The kilogram of heroin was seized along with bottles of blue dye but lab tests will be required to see if fentanyl is present.
He believes that a significant portion of heroin was taken off the street, and this will force users to go elsewhere for the next few days.
Schertzer said he was in contact with the Crawford-Marion County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services to address that issue.
"There is another side to this, there is the rehabilitation side," Schertzer said. "I have been in contact with the ADAMH Board in our community (and) Jody Demo-Hodgins, and we will keep that dialogue open with the other organizations that have to deal with the aftermath of a drug operation like this morning."
Demo-Hodgins, ADAMH director, said she anticipates more people will enter treatment for heroin addiction due to an absence of supply and has talked to Marion Area Counseling Center and Maryhaven Inc. in Crawford County about the expected uptick in people seeking alcohol and other drug treatment.
Originally published in the Marion Star on June 11, 2015.