A multi-agency covert narcotics operation consisting of law enforcement officers from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Warrant Division, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit, the Georgia State Patrol and the Griffin Police Department Criminal Investigations Division was conducted Friday afternoon.
Authorities say the effort resulted in the arrest of 43-year-old Ricky “Rico” Charles Johnson, an offender with an extensive felony criminal record who had previously been placed on parole until 2029 for other felony convictions prior to the operation.
The operation was initiated by the GPD Career Offenders, Burglary and Robbery Apprehension (COBRA) Unit. Surveillance efforts began in response to community complaints which led to the apprehension of Johnson at 872 S. Ninth St.
According to a press release issued Monday by the GPD, as the various officers were closing in, Johnson attempted to flee on his Suzuki GXR1000. As officers ordered him to stop, he dropped the bike on its side in the dirt parking lot while trying to mount it and he was arrested.
“Due to our concerns of Johnson fleeing and causing a dangerous high-speed chase, I made the call for all the units to close in and arrest Johnson before he became mobile again,” said Cpl. Stan Phillips, GPD case agent for the operation.
Officials say Johnson had 314 gross grams of marijuana in his possession which has a street value of $3,140. Due to the ongoing surveillance, investigators had probable cause to believe that Johnson had more marijuana in his residence at 1107 Dewey St.
Members of the GPD’s Special Response Team (SRT) were quickly formed into an entry/containment team and sent to the Dewey Street address. The location was contained with the assistance of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Warrant Division.
“We were concerned about evidence being destroyed or moved to another location and this created an exigent circumstance that forced us to contain the residence quickly,” said Investigator Bryan Clanton, SRT team member and GPD spokesman.
The combined team cleared the location and detained everyone inside with prior approval from a magistrate judge. Once the search warrant was signed, the residence was searched.
Wanda Driver, the 39-year-old girlfriend of Rico Johnson, was detained inside the house. Also present were her children, ages 12 and 9.
Authorities say Driver cooperated with investigators and admitted to her personal knowledge of Johnson’s drug business for the last 17 years. She allegedly showed investigators the location of 237 gross grams of marijuana, packaging materials, scales, a .44-caliber handgun and a hidden compartment in the house containing $2,500.
According to Phillips, the investigation and surveillance also revealed that Johnson obtained a 2006 Dodge Magnum, 2007 Chevy Equinox, 1992 Ford F-150, 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix, 1999 Suzuki GSX R600X and 2005 GSX R1000 with illegal narcotics assets and used them to transport his drug supply. The GPD is now in the process of seizing these vehicles through court proceedings.
“I conducted further inquiries into Johnson’s drug operation and uncovered that Johnson and Driver could not have maintained their lifestyle without supplementing their income through proceeds from his import and illegal sale of narcotics,” said Phillips.
“The GPD COBRA Unit, with the help of our own CID investigators, the Spalding County Warrant Division, the Fayette County Aviation Unit and the GSP, were able to make this operation safe and successful. Due to this suspect’s violent criminal history and regional drug sales operation based in Griffin, we considered him especially dangerous to our community. These major offenders do not stand a chance when we use this type of teamwork,” said Lt. Tony Thomason, COBRA Unit leader.
“The investigation revealed that Johnson is what we would consider a mid-level drug dealer. His operation was a hazard to the city of Griffin and the surrounding area. We estimate that the amount of illegal narcotics imported into Griffin by him throughout his criminal career to be substantial,” added Clanton.
Driver is facing a reckless conduct charge and similar narcotics charges. Johnson is in the Spalding County Jail facing charges of felony possession of marijuana, sale of marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, reckless conduct and possession of marijuana.
The reckless conduct charges for both suspects are a result of them allegedly conducting the sale and possession of narcotics in the presence of children.